Running Out Of Fuel In VFR Conditions 7700 – MzeroA Flight Training

Running Out Of Fuel In VFR Conditions 7700 – MzeroA Flight Training

Hey, MzeroA nation, Jason here,
bringing you a new series. Actually, all throughout this year,
we’re going to be doing more series-based content. And welcome into the first part of that. 7700, of course our emergency
transponder squawk code. All this month,
our webinars, our podcasts, and we’re back to doing
podcasts, by the way, links to those
in the description below as well. All our content has been based on this
idea of in-flight emergencies that unfortunately in some
cases lead to accidents. Today, we’re going to be diving
into United Flight 173, and I’ll be taking you
through this accident that really should have never been
an accident in the first place. The premise and the theme that I
want you to take away from this is that even the professionals
make mistakes. We have a very experienced
crew in this case and yet they still are going to
run out of fuel in VFR conditions. We’ll talk about that in a second. United Flight 173 is
actually where CRM, Crew Resource Management
actually came from. Up until this point,
this was back with that culture of “I’m the captain and what I say goes.” There wasn’t too much working together
as a team in the cockpit like we’re, I’ll say, still aspiring
towards here today. The FAA started to realize
that more accidents we’re being caused by pilot error
rather than mechanical error. So, they devised this idea. Listen, we have this CRM
in the military here. We need this over in civilian aviation,
and United Flight 173 was one of the final straws to get
CRM implemented in our training. So, let’s start with the end in mind. When the FAA and the NTSB showed up to
the wreckage of United Flight 173, they asked one simple question. How does an airplane run out of fuel
in VFR conditions in sight of the airport? Knowing that question, let’s try to put ourselves
in the shoes of the pilots that day. There are three members
of our United crew, Captain Malburn McBroom. He’s a World War II veteran, 27-year United captain,
27,000 flight hours. That’s the kind of person
I want to be my flight instructor, right, like a World War II veteran,
27,000 flight hours, yet this is the exact person that
our accident really surrounds to run out of fuel in VFR conditions. Our first officer
is First Officer Roderick Beebe, 13 years with United,
5,500 flight hours. Forrest Mendenhall is our flight engineer,
11 years with United, 3,300 flight hours, a lot of experience. Thirty thousand plus hours
sitting in this cockpit and we’re going to run out of fuel
in VFR conditions in sight of the airport. Let’s watch
the simulation here together and I’ll narrate it as
we see how it unfolds. So, our flight departs
New York’s JFK Airport with a quick stop over in Denver
before continuing on to Portland, Oregon. Now, it was in Denver that
some passengers get on, some passengers get off,
and we take on fuel. We take on 46,000 pounds
of the required 32,000 pounds. Now, while this doesn’t
sound like a big deal, we fly 172s, right,
this is just enough fuel to be legal in this type of McDonnell Douglas
aircraft at the time. Just enough fuel to be
legal and still meet the United requirements here. We’re coming into Portland,
we break through this little wispy layer, we lower our flaps,
we lower our landing gear, and it’s about this time we’re met
with this loud bang type noise. No one likes loud noises
in airplanes, right? So, they put down the landing gear,
they hear this loud bang noise. You and I can see from the outside their
landing gear is down, locked and straight. In fact, it actually was,
yet when you look inside, they didn’t get any
in-transit lights and the majority of their
lights just remained red, not giving them a
positive indication. What had actually happened is
they had lost hydraulic pressure. Hydraulic pressure works to bring
the landing gear up, as well as to bring
the landing gear down along with gravity. Losing that hydraulic
pressure caused 250 knots and gravity to literally rip
the landing gear down into place. We can see this here,
but they have no idea if their landing gear
is down at this point. So, they enter into the call approach
and approach vectors them to like this triangular-shaped holding pattern,
and it’s there they continue to hold while the captain sends
the flight engineer back into the cabin because on the McDonnell Douglas
aircraft this time, there’s a little indicator tab
that pops up on the wing roots above each main wheel. And if that pops up, that tells
you that particular main is down, locked and straight. Look at our simulation
and kind of see where that would be. He checked and both those
indicator tabs were up, meaning, at least the left and right mains
were down, locked and straight. The captain now reaches out
to the flight attendant and tries to get the cabin ready here. “Okay, what would you do? Have you got any suggestions
about when to brace? You want to do it over the PA?” Talking to the flight attendant. The flight attendant says,
“I got to be honest with you. I’ve never had on this.
This is my first emergency.” She’s explaining here. “As of now, hold it.” Remember, we got just
enough fuel to be legal. And the first officer and the flight
engineer know and understand that, and that conversation
is going to come up here. I’m sure the first officer is just
thinking out loud when he says, “How much fuel do we have?” Flight engineer comes back and says,
“Five thousand, 5,000 pounds of fuel.” This is like warning lights on
at this point. This is low fuel. Captain says, “Give us a current
car on a weight figure.” “About another 15 minutes.” “Fifteen minutes?”
says the flight engineer. Wait, I’ll explain all this here
in just a second now. “Yeah. Give us 3 or 4,000 pounds
on top of zero fuel weight here.” I’ll explain this in a second. Flight engineer says,
“Not enough. Fifteen minutes is going to
run us really low on fuel here.” Let me just pause this here
so you understand what this is saying now. What the captain is saying, “Hey, flight engineer, I know you said
there’s 5,000 pounds of fuel in there.” And by the way,
in this aircraft, 5,000 pounds of fuel
is like warning lights on. Picture your car, it no longer tells you
30 miles ’til empty. It just says,
“Low. You need to get to a gas station soon.
This is extremely low on fuel.” What the captain is now saying here to
the flight engineer, he’s going, “Listen. I know you say
there’s 5,000 there, but trust me, give it 3
or 4,000 extra pound. We’re good.
Don’t you worry about it.” He’s making up imaginary fuel. Now, mind you, the flight engineer,
the flight engineer was known as the plumber of the aircraft. There were so many different fuel tanks
and fuel chambers and there’s a very complex fuel system. No one knew the fuel situation better
than that flight engineer because he was constantly moving fuel
wherever it needed to be to keep that airplane flying with cross-feeds
and pumps and everything else. The flight engineer knew
the true fuel status. He said it was 5,000. The captain won’t hear it, “Don’t worry about it.
We’ve got this. We’re fine.” Let’s continue with our simulation now. So, after this conversation,
we see Portland here. You think,
“Well, we have to land now.” However, that’s not the case here. The captain comes on back
and lets everybody know it’s going to be just a little bit longer
as the cabin continues to get ready. “Just take another walk through the cabin.
Make sure everyone’s fine. Let them know another 10 minutes or so,” the captain says
as they turn away from the airport. Flight engineer is
speaking out loud, “We’ve got 3,000 in the fuel
and that’s it.” He gets ignored. “Okay, on touchdown. If the gear folds
or something really jumps the track, get those boost pumps off so that
you might even get the valves open here.” He’s worried about a post-crash fire. He doesn’t have enough fuel on board to
even start a fire in this case. But you look and here’s Portland. We got to land this time. “There’s one check we missed,”
says the captain. “What’s that?” “The landing gear warning horn.
Let’s test the breaker. Let’s go ahead and let’s pull
the throttles back to idle the flaps past 35 to test.” “Hey, pull that breaker and reset it.” He’s obsessed with this
landing gear issue, but now it will get
his attention. First officer,
“We’re going to lose an engine.” “Why?”
says the captain. “We’re losing an engine.” “Why?”
says the captain. “Fuel.” Now, we finally have his attention here. “Open up the cross-feeds,”
the captain said. Flight engineer says,
“I’m showing fumes.” The captain says,
“I’m showing 1,000 pounds are better. I don’t think it’s in there.” It just flamed out as they now make a desperate turn
towards the Portland Airport hoping to be with impartial
power glide distance. Flight engineer, “We’re going to lose
engine number three in a minute too. Captain, we’ve got 1,000 pounds.
We have to.” First officer,
“We had 5,000, buddy, but we lost it.” “Do we have fuel pressure?
All cross-feeds open.” The captain, “Hey, reset that
circuit breaker real quick and see if we get gear lights.” All the way into this descent obsessed with this
landing gear issue. As United Flight 173 lands eight miles
short of Portland International into a Portland suburb, all three wheels,
down, locked and straight. I have some photos here to
share with you of that. You can see the crash. There were some fatalities. There were certainly more
survivors than fatalities, thankfully, in this case here. When we say Portland suburb,
we literally mean Portland suburb, if you can see this here. There was no post-crash fire. Can you see the airplane in that photo? Let me zoom in a little bit
so you can see it here. There was no post-crash fire
from the airplane at least. The only post-crash issue
was an electrical fire, as you can see the tail kind of grabbed
the electrical lines there causing a fire. When we say in a Portland suburb,
we literally mean in a Portland suburb. So now, you are the FAA, you’re the NTSB. You show up in the suburbs of Portland and what’s the first
question you ask yourself? “How does an airplane
run out of fuel in VFR conditions
in sight of the airport?” I mean, think about it. You post in the comments, too. I’d love to read your responses here. Some ideas that jump into my mind,
we forgot to fly the airplane. We became obsessed with these
other outside issues. Let me show you the chain of events that
I came up with here real quick. How about the first one? Just enough fuel for the trip. Again, it’s hard to calculate and fathom
how much fuel this aircraft takes. We’re talking pounds and everything else,
but to relate it to what we do, is literally they took on
just enough fuel to be legal, plus United had an extra
20 minutes on theirs, what they wanted. Just enough fuel to be legal. And the captain survived. He later said,
“Listen, we talked about the fuel, but it was kind of
just that’s what we did.” Obviously, fly more fuel is expensive
because you burn more fuel. It’s more weight. It was just
the economics of it at the time. It doesn’t happen as much, much anymore. We’re much more careful
with our fuel burn, but that was just
the economics of it at the time. That was,
“I’m the captain. What I say goes.
This is the fuel I’m taking on here.” What’s the second in our chain of events? The landing gear issue. And I call it the landing gear issue
because the flight engineer went back and double-checked
the little indicators and he said, “I can tell the mains are down,
locked and straight.” At the time, the nose was
much more difficult to inspect. It required removing inspection panels to
actually look down and see if it was down, locked and straight. But we had all the indications. There’s a pretty good chance
the landing gear is down. They just held out there a little bit
too long before bringing it on in. What about our third link
in the chain of events? The captain’s failure to see beyond it. He became obsessed
with this landing gear issue, trying every little thing,
forgetting about the impending fuel issue. That event number four
in our chain of events, the crew failed to share it. You could say, “Jason, they tried
their best. They thought out loud.” “Hey, much fuel do we have?” And the captain heard them, but then came up with other
arbitrary things to say and they just didn’t share it enough
until the faithful words, “We’re going to lose an engine.” And the captain just says,
“Why?” “We’re losing an engine.” “Why?”
the captain still says, not fully understanding the circumstance,
just trying to troubleshoot and work through a landing gear issue. How does an airplane run out of fuel
in VFR conditions in sight of the airport? Well, they simply just
stopped flying the airplane, if you want my
professional opinion. This accident, by the way, it changed the way airlines
hired and trained. Gone were the days of
“I’m this macho poster-boy type pilot.” Think back like the Tenerife accident
and let’s start incorporating CRM and working together
as a team and as a crew. So, I know we were speaking
about flying big heavy airplanes, but I hope you see how this relates to us
in general aviation. Leave me a comment down below
on your thoughts. What can you learn from this? How can you apply this to
general aviation? How can you utilize this
in your own CRM as well? This is the first in our
multi-part series of the 7700 series. I hope you’ll like us on Facebook. Subscribe on YouTube as well so you continue to keep
up with this series. Also, please mark your calendars. I’m doing something
very, very special this month. March 26th. March 26th at 3:00 p.m., I’ll be doing a JFK Jr.
live presentation, brand new. I created this presentation
about five years ago. So much new research,
a new detective work by myself and the team here
that we’ve truly found. We’re recreating that
seminar from five years ago and we’re going to deliver all live with
some of the great insights we had before, but some new insights
to bring up as well. Talk about did he have an
autopilot, all these things, and what can we learn from that. That’ll culminate the 7700 series as well,
March 26, 3:00 p.m., Eastern Time on the MzeroA YouTube,
MzeroA Facebook. There’s a link to RSVP
in the video description as well. Lastly, Sun ‘n Fun. If you plan on being at Sun ‘n Fun,
I will hope you would join us. Come find us in Hangar D, Hangar Delta. Same spot we’ve been for many, many years. I’ll be in the booth all week,
as well as Saturday at 12:00 p.m. Steve O., a very good friend,
Steveo1Kinevo will be in the booth, the MzeroA booth
from 12:00 to 1:00 as well. I’ll look forward to seeing you
on the livestream. I’ll look forward to seeing you
at Sun ‘n Fun. Enjoy the rest of this series
as it comes out this month. And most importantly, remember, the good pilot is always learning. Have a good day, guys.
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36 thoughts on “Running Out Of Fuel In VFR Conditions 7700 – MzeroA Flight Training

  1. Sad thing is, if we are honest this "could" happen to any of us by getting "fixated" on one "probable/possible" issue and disregarding the "proverbial" elephant in the room, the "real/actual" issue that is dynamically getting worse (fuel burn)…
    I'm a full fuel guy, whats my useful load with full fuel?
    I want my bladder to force me to land before lack of fuel does…

  2. It's 2020 and we still can't confirm landing gear is down? Small cameras could solve this recurring error. Just make include as one of the instruments, airplane manmanufacturers should have a discussion about this

  3. Hi Jason, I like this new series you are doing. Definitely applicable to GA. I know a lot of work goes into creating something like this so thank you!

  4. Former WWii military pilot, alot of flying by the seat of their pants, and used to inaccurate fuel gauges.
    I think human nature is to fixate on the problem.
    We are all capable of this same scenario.
    By the way, just enough fuel is not unusual considering weather conditions.
    Blue skys all

  5. Super video. Lots to think about and apply to our own mindsets to avoid such fixations. Looking forward to the coming videos and to meeting you at SnF.

  6. So important – particularly in GA flying – to talk through real-world emergencies and how to troubleshoot in the cockpit.

  7. One question here and with the Eastern Airlines crew that landed in the Florida Everglades. Why did they not follow an emergency check list? Great video. I intend to watch them all as they come out. I am a retired airline pilot with over 24,000 hours and I can always learn something new.

  8. Reminds me of John Denver's unfortunate situation. The fuel switch in his new-to-him aircraft was in an impossible location ….but, had he just listened to his mechanic's advice and topped off before heading out, he'd probably still be with us. He wouldn't have had to worry about switching tanks at 500' AGL over the ocean, and wouldn't have inadvertently stomped the rudder pedal to the floor in a more than likely panicked attempt to reach the switch.

    Great lesson here, Jason! I've watched alot of these kinds of videos, but I don't recall seeing this one. Lots of lessons can be learned from this chain. 👍🍻

  9. With all of the technology now available and cameras now being so small, why can't we have landing gear cameras that visually verify locked and down or up?

  10. One question I have not heard asked: "why didn't they pick up some more fuel in Denver?"  

    I do understand that fuel costs money, flying a heavier plane costs fuel, but I am sure it would have been less than the settlements made to the dead passenger's families. 

    Those that live by the minimums, die by the minimums.

  11. Just for the records, this accident happened 42 years ago on December 1978. Since then, a lot of additional safety has been introduced in the aviation industry for a safer environment. Are we using this story because we are still seeing similar occurrences in the commercial industry or are we leveraging it for a safer GA?

  12. Interesting video and a blast from my past. It's hard to know what the pilot was thinking when he wanted to disregard the low fuel warnings from his crew at the time. It seems to me, but I have no experience in the actual risks and realities of landing a large jet with a possibility its gear couldcollapse, but it makes sense to me that putting it down on the runway under any circumstances would have been a better option. But I'm not making any judgements and I'm just guessing after the fact. Lord knows the pilot suffered severely over the accident.
    I lived near the area.
    As soon as I saw the 1st image I knew this was flight 173.  I was there after it went down. I was 21 and my gf at that time lived almost directly across the street in a duplex at that time and I heard on the news while at work it went down there. I could not get her via phone at the time and was really worried so I drove out there but had to walk in from a ways because it was all blocked off. 
    Next morning I could s 6 ee it took off about 3 feet, maybe more, off the top of the telephone pole in front of her place and all the lines along with it.  There were 2 houses directly across the street on the North side of E Burnside st that were quite mlm literally reduced to little more than a splash of small kindling, I was blown away by it.
    Thank God more people on the plane and ground were not killed!
    At that time E. Burnside st was a much narrower road but a block east on the south side was a fairly large apartment complex so it could have been a huge disaster.

  13. keep your head clear, focused and finish your mission, a safe, rewarding and fun flight. troubleshoot problems but never lose focus of a safe landing

  14. I was there on the top a hill in Gresham, Oregon when this plane flew right over the top of us. It was so low. From this hill where my parents were building a house, you can see PDX. The plane came out of nowhere and felt like it was going to crash on top of us. It went right over the top of us. Wow! That was scary! We did not know that it crashed about five miles away. We lived not far from where it crashed and drove right up to the crash site unintentionally. We got out to see if we could help. It was a scene that I will never forget. I saw first hand the important responsibility the pilots hold for good and bad.

  15. I grew up in Portland.  The night this happened my brother and I jumped in the car and drove to the accident scene.  Pitch black (it took out all the power lines on the way in) and couldn't find the plane (it was in a bunch of trees on top of two houses).  Helicopters trying to land in the intersection, absolute chaos.  Fortunate only a few were killed.

  16. That's was a stupidity from the captain to ignore the flight engineer, pride and over trust in himself and underestimate his flight engineer expertise, if it was up to me I would take his license away and make sure that he won't fly commercial again!!!
    Sadly there was a fatalities that could be avoided!!

  17. Hey Jason! I saw another comment like this. My first thought was to fly by the tower asking if landing gear was down. I know for a training aircraft it would be possible to land at the destination airport but for a heavier airliner, I would think that they would be able to circle around and land or if not at least divert to another airport and land safely.

  18. Try not to let ATC intimidate you. Remember, your aviating, navigating and communicating all by yourself.

  19. fixation. We use it in skydiving when avoiding an obstacle to land so is the case here with an emergency of wheels down. 100 percent of the attention was fixed on landing gear. Fixation caused this accident.

  20. Having lived just blocks from the accident sight, at the time, I followed this accident investigation closely from the beginning.   Early on it was revealed, (then later rather quietly hushed up, (or glossed over), the fact that United had in their employment contract, at the time, an added bonus of pay, to be paid by the minute, during any declared emergency.  Thereby providing an incentive to prolong the actual time the "emergency" existed).  If I remember correctly, this clause was later removed from the contract.

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