An American Airlines Pilot Almost Crashed A Plane, And The Transcript Is Shocking

An American Airlines Pilot Almost Crashed A Plane, And The Transcript Is Shocking

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In April 2019, an American Airlines plane had a serious takeoff incident at JFK. The incident was so bad that the plane involved ended up being scrapped. Over three years later, there’s an update, as investigators have released their final report, which is pretty damning for the captain. Perhaps the most shocking part is the transcript of what the pilots were saying to one another.

American Airlines plane’s terrifying takeoff from JFK

First let’s cover some basics of the accident. On April 10, 2019, an American Airlines Airbus A321 was operating flight AA300 from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX). This was one of American’s “A321T” aircraft, in a swanky three cabin configuration with just 102 seats. The flight was carrying 109 people, including 101 passengers and eight crew.

Long story short, the plane “rolled” to the left as it took off, causing the left wing to hit something during takeoff. It’s believed that the plane banked around 30 degrees to the left, to the point that the pilots were worried the plane would flip over.

As the plane passed through 20,000 feet, the pilots finally informed air traffic controllers of their intention to return to the airport. You can listen to the audio between the pilots and air traffic controllers below (which is pretty standard, and not nearly as interesting as the transcript that has been released from the cockpit, which I’ll cover below).

Anyway, the plane ended up sustaining some significant damage to the left wing. Examination revealed that the left wing had a permanent upward deflection, to the point that the left wingtip was about six inches higher than the right wingtip. As a result, the plane ended up being scrapped and used for parts. That gives you a sense of just how serious this incident was.

Pilot error blamed for American Airlines incident

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its final report about the incident. Investigators determined that the probable cause of this incident was pilot error. Specifically, the plane had a crosswind during takeoff, and the captain used the rudder excessively:

“The captain’s excessive left rudder pedal input during the takeoff ground roll, which caused a large heading deviation and a left roll upon rotation that resulted in the left wingtip striking the ground.”

The first officer claimed that the plane had banked around 30 degrees to the left, and feared that the plane was going to “roll over.” During takeoff the captain said “I can’t control it,” at which point the first officer grabbed his sidestick, applied right aileron and back pressure, and the airplane began to climb. Without that, one has to wonder how this would have ended.

For context, the crosswind wasn’t too bad. It was a roughly 14-17 knot crosswind from the right, well below the company’s 35-knot crosswind limitation. No faults were found with the plane as such.

Now, I can’t help put point out the bizarre parallels here between this flight and another one. Remember American Airlines flight AA587, which was an Airbus A300 that crashed shortly after 9/11, in November 2001? That plane took off from the same exact runway (and coincidentally that was operated by an Airbus A300, while this was flight number AA300). There was wake turbulence on departure, and the cause of the crash was the pilot’s excessive use of rudder.

American Airlines cockpit transcript is shocking

Rarely do we get to hear what pilots are actually discussing in tense situations. While there are cockpit voice recorders, they only record for around two hours. So only after a serious incident are they ever listened to. Well, in this case the entire transcript from this flight has been released, and it might make some people uneasy about flying.

I think it’s important to emphasize that both pilots in the flight deck were very experienced:

  • The 58-year-old captain had nearly 20,000 flight hours, with around 3,000 hours on Airbus A320 family aircraft
  • The first officer was the same age, and had 15,500 flight hours, with around 2,000 hours on Airbus A320 family aircraft

The point is, this was an exceptionally experienced crew, between the captain and first officer. Over 35,000 hours, with neither pilot being new to the jet, is just about all the experience you could hope for.

Anyway, let me share some key conversations, and I’ll note that when there’s a “#” in the transcript, that means there was an expletive used.

Here was the conversation right after takeoff when the incident first happened:

First officer: “Your airplane, your airplane, your airplane. I don’t know what’s goin’ on.”
Captain: “What the # (happened)?”
First officer: “I don’t know. Ah the engines all go, good.”
Captain: “The # ju- it just # rolled on me.”
First officer: “What the # is that? Are we continuing? #. These girls will never fly with
us again. I thought we were gone.”
First officer: “That scared the # outta me, I thought we were gone.”
Captain: “The # airplane just rolled on me dude.”

It’s interesting how one of the first things they bring up is how “these girls will never fly with us again,” presumably referring to the flight attendants.

Shortly thereafter the pilots had a more general discussion about the plane:

First officer: “# airplane, I swear to @.”
Captain: “# hate flyin’ this thing with any kinda crosswind. # me I’m gonna take some time off after that #.”
First officer: “Tell me about it.”
Captain: “Holy # I’m not workin’ tomorrow.”

It’s a little concerning if a captain with nearly 20,000 hours hates flying the plane when there’s any sort of a crosswind.

Then a flight attendant called the cockpit, and here’s the conversation:

Flight attendant: “What was that? That was so scary?”
Captain: “I know, I think we, we, we think we our, our rudder got jammed. We’re testing it out right now, we’re just lookin’ at all the flight controls. And ah, right now she seems to be operating pretty smoothly, so.”
Flight attendant: “Okay. Thank you I’m glad you’re experienced.”
Captain: “Yeah well, you know what? We, we, we’re just having a conversation about that. # Airbus man. this is the kinda # we don’t like about it. You know there’s so many computers we don’t, we don’t know what it # does sometimes.”
Flight attendant: “Okay.”
Captain: “That was a ah full left rudder on the, on the runway to keep it on the runway and then ah the one- the once we got airborne she just went # tits up.”
Flight attendant: “Okay just keep us abreast. Good job.”

It’s also nice to know the plane has so many computers that the captain doesn’t know how to use them, apparently!

This interaction is probably the most telling of the entire series:

Captain: “You ever notice on this airplane you go, you go full controls sometimes it doesn’t react, it doesn’t do anything?
First officer: “No, I don’t go full controls that often, so.”

That gets at the whole issue, since it seems the captain made a habit of going “full controls” too much, which is what caused this incident. You shouldn’t be going “full controls” for a moderate crosswind.

Then the pilots tried to decide whether to return to JFK or continue their flight. Interestingly they’re not motivated to return out of an abundance of caution, but rather due to politics and to cover their rears:

First officer: “Yeah I mean I’m just thinkin’ with that kind of an extreme maneuver, you know just, for the politics of it all. It might not be a bad idea go back, because, these girls will never fly with us again I’m tellin’ ya. and the, I mean that scared me that bad, that I’ve never been so scared in an airplane I don’t think I thought. I mean I wasn’t that scared because like, but I thought it was over. I thought we were goin down.”
Captain: “But yeah the passengers are probably all wondering and then people could ah monday morning quarterback you on continuing, with I’m just sayin’ that, I’m just putting that out there. I mean, I feel safe you know yeah let’s go, but you I’m just saying, I just wanted.”
First officer: “Or maybe call maintenance to cover your #. And tell ’em what happened and see what they- or just ah I don’t know yeah.”
Captain: “You know, I think you’re right.”
First officer: “I think you gotta cover your # on this one.”

At this point the decision was made to return to JFK. The captain then addressed the passengers, lying about having “isolated the faulty system.” Here’s the transcript of that:

Captain: “Ladies and gentlemen this is the captain speaking if I can have your attention please, ah we’ve got an issue with the airplane involving our ah flight control computers and ah we are ah made the decision to return to ah JFK airport and land the airplane and ah let the maintenance folks ah take it over. Should be ah touching down in Kennedy in about fifteen minutes or so, no cause for alarm the aircraft has been ah secured with the faulty system isolated and ah she’s handling very nicely at this point but ah no sense in ah continuing on to LA ah with with an aircraft ah in this particular condition so we’re gonna just for safety’ ah purposes ah return to JFK and land. And ahm once we get on the ground safely back at the gate we’ll start working the issue of getting a new airplane or ah figuring out how to get you all on your way. Appreciate your patience as ah we keep the operation as safe as ah as possible. Thanks again, again landing in about fifteen minutes.”

Bottom line

Well over three years after the incident, we now have a final report on what happened during an April 2019 departure from JFK that caused an American Airlines Airbus A321 to be written off.

The cause was determined to be the captain’s excessive use of left rudder during takeoff. And it seems that the captain had a history of using too much rudder, based on the transcript, during which he asked the first officer if he had the same issue when applying “full controls.”

It’s quite shocking to hear a captain with nearly 20,000 hours claim that he hates flying the plane if there’s any sort of a crosswind, and that he doesn’t know how a lot of the computers work.

It sounds like the first officer was significantly more competent in this case. Not only did his inputs during the takeoff roll potentially help avoid catastrophe, but he also said that he didn’t have experience with going “full controls,” because that’s not something you’re supposed to do with a moderate crosswind, well within operating limits.

This incident could have ended very differently, it seems. I’m sure I’m not the only one now wondering whether it’s common for pilots with 20,000 hours to act like this, or if this was just a very bad apple.

What do you make of this incident? Does anyone know what ended up happening to the pilots (or maybe that’s only being dealt with now, since the final report has been released)?

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  1. Blue Balls Guest

    Am I the only pilot that noticed the incorrect use of the left rudder. The wind was reported with a right crosswind of 17 Kts. The Captain said he was using full left rudder. Every plane I’ve flown from a Cessna to an Airbus requires right rudder on the runway for a right crosswind. The only thing I can surmise is that this captain was using left rudder and full right side stick cross controlling....

    Am I the only pilot that noticed the incorrect use of the left rudder. The wind was reported with a right crosswind of 17 Kts. The Captain said he was using full left rudder. Every plane I’ve flown from a Cessna to an Airbus requires right rudder on the runway for a right crosswind. The only thing I can surmise is that this captain was using left rudder and full right side stick cross controlling. He should’ve only been using partial right rudder to keep it centered on the runway. The Airbus isn’t even designed for using rudder airborne, after the aircraft rotates, feet come off the rudders and you’re only using side stick deflection. My 2 cents.

    1. Clem Guest

      You got that wrong, Blue. Right crosswinds cause the jet to want to nose right. Think of it like the wind pushing on the tail. Needs left rudder to track runway centerline.

    2. Lukas Guest

      Huh? You sure you’re a pilot? What you said is a complete lack of understanding of basic airmanship. The airplane weathervanes INTO the wind. If the wind is off the left, you need right rudder to maintain centerline and vice versa.

  2. Bruce Davey Guest

    With a lot of time in the Airbus 320/319, I am amazed...the whole thing is a real goat rope. But I am a little lost on the first line of the dialogue where the FO says, "Your aircraft"...was it his takeoff? and then the Captain took over?, or were they both providing input to the system? (which is additive unless one pilot pushes the red button on the sidestick). I trust that "the girls" are...

    With a lot of time in the Airbus 320/319, I am amazed...the whole thing is a real goat rope. But I am a little lost on the first line of the dialogue where the FO says, "Your aircraft"...was it his takeoff? and then the Captain took over?, or were they both providing input to the system? (which is additive unless one pilot pushes the red button on the sidestick). I trust that "the girls" are not looking forward to ever flying with these guys. To bent a wing eighteen inches upward and still wind up safe on the ground is not generally a repeatable event.

  3. Gary Tromer Guest

    Think about it guy. Crosswind from right. Big barn door vertical stabilizer having wind force applied on its right surface. So like a weathervane, the aircraft begins to point towards the wind - to the RIGHT. Correction is to the left - or left rudder applied. I guess you missed that lesson.

  4. Andy Mandy Guest

    Everyone is way to harsh on these guys, they just had a life-threatening situation and are coping with what just happened. Everyone saying he doesn't know how to fly the plane when he was clearly just trying to cope with what had just happened by blaming the aircraft instead of himself (human nature) is just appalling.
    Also as for mentioning the flight attendants, was obviously a joke to lighten the mood, implying its some...

    Everyone is way to harsh on these guys, they just had a life-threatening situation and are coping with what just happened. Everyone saying he doesn't know how to fly the plane when he was clearly just trying to cope with what had just happened by blaming the aircraft instead of himself (human nature) is just appalling.
    Also as for mentioning the flight attendants, was obviously a joke to lighten the mood, implying its some sort of sexist remark that some 58 year old married man would make is just kind of disingenuine.

  5. bob Guest

    i dont know about other airlines but this one u are not allowed to put in ANY airleron during takeoff roll

  6. Nancy Guest

    Well, as formerly one of "those girls" the F/O is right. I would never fly with them again.

  7. Capt. Over Guest

    To anyone who has read this article and believes what this crew said about the A320, I can assure you the problem was not with the airplane. I have over 15,000 hours - half of them on A320s and A330s - and there is no easier commercial airliner out there when it comes to operating with a modest crosswind like the one that day at JFK.

    As the old saying goes, "It is a poor craftsman who blames his mistakes on his toolbox".

  8. Greg Guest

    Sadly this guy (Capt Rudder) never learned how to fly. Ive been flying 43yrs with 24000 hrs. Flown everything from J-3 cubs to large turbojets. I own a tail wheel aircraft and everyone knows how different that is from jets. I have over 9000 in the A320 family, and flew old round dial jets among my experience. I cant comprehend that amount of rudder in any xwind t/o in any turbojet. The 320 has been...

    Sadly this guy (Capt Rudder) never learned how to fly. Ive been flying 43yrs with 24000 hrs. Flown everything from J-3 cubs to large turbojets. I own a tail wheel aircraft and everyone knows how different that is from jets. I have over 9000 in the A320 family, and flew old round dial jets among my experience. I cant comprehend that amount of rudder in any xwind t/o in any turbojet. The 320 has been a joy to fly and ive never used or needed excessive rudder in any situation. How this guy got through PC checks is beyond me.

  9. Hoffer Guest

    I have over 20,000 of Airbus time because I'm not smart enough to fly anything else.

  10. R R Guest

    Very likely wake turbulence combined with crosswind caused larger than normal control input requirements. I have had wake turbulence in scenarios like this and it’s a serious situation. And just when you apply the right amount input, you fly through the turbulence and the input is no longer required. I found whoever wrote this article to be judging without any research which doesn’t do anything positive nor does it offer any truth. While it’s obvious...

    Very likely wake turbulence combined with crosswind caused larger than normal control input requirements. I have had wake turbulence in scenarios like this and it’s a serious situation. And just when you apply the right amount input, you fly through the turbulence and the input is no longer required. I found whoever wrote this article to be judging without any research which doesn’t do anything positive nor does it offer any truth. While it’s obvious these pilots cuss when stressed and maybe focus on the wrong thing (FAs), the implications beyond that are pure speculation.

    1. Greg Guest

      The NTSB report is speculation? And how do you get wake turbulence on rotation when theres a 15-20k xwind?

    2. Greg Guest

      The NTSB report is speculation? And how do you get wake turbulence at rotation when theres a 15+ xwind? And aren't you judging/speculating? “WT combined with crosswind…” Doesnt sound like you read the NTSB report but the article reflects the report.

  11. R. Oshima Guest

    From the Boeing side of the house, 25000 hrs. +
    Crosswind is from the right so you apply full left rudder ?? Where was the training and checking department?

  12. G. Tromer Guest

    If the Pilot Flying (Capt) were to apply to much corrective left crosswind rudder input for a moderate
    (garden variety...er, nothing untypical) crosswind, the aircraft would have veered left of runway centerline. The Capt. did not veer, as nothing out of the ordinary was noted during the takeoff roll. Therefore, it is my supposition that full left rudder input was applied, the aircraft began to veer left of centerllne, and the Captain unconsciously compensated...

    If the Pilot Flying (Capt) were to apply to much corrective left crosswind rudder input for a moderate
    (garden variety...er, nothing untypical) crosswind, the aircraft would have veered left of runway centerline. The Capt. did not veer, as nothing out of the ordinary was noted during the takeoff roll. Therefore, it is my supposition that full left rudder input was applied, the aircraft began to veer left of centerllne, and the Captain unconsciously compensated for this by applying right nosewheel steering. A cross control situation ensued. Certainly the NTSB would have all this control input data. It had been stated by my instructors during initial training that the Airbus, remarkably, can record thousands of parameters. However, this technical information was not shared in the article. A very unprofessional cockpit dialogue ensued after the incident. Unfortunately, truck drivers would have a more civil tongue, and a more professional, technical diagnosis of what possibly transpired.

  13. Max Guest

    I’d like to know was this captain native AA or USAir? Different cultures, different training…………

    1. Rose Guest

      Meaning? USAIRWAYS pilots are the cream of the crop. I assume that’s what you mean.

  14. Airbus Captain Guest

    As an Airbus captain, all I can say is WTF…

  15. Dale L. Rust Guest

    "use rudder on takeoff to keep the aircraft pointed straight down the runway." .. huh ?? If you kept the nose pointed STRAIGHT DOWN THE RUNWAY (in some type of crosswind), you'd be drifting off the runway, hot-lickety split.
    .. from an ATP/FII/MEI 12,000 hr NON AIRBUS driver. The above suggestion wouldn't even work in a rudder-less Ercoupe 415C.

    1. Keith Guest

      Aileron into the wind and opposite rudder to “Keep The Nose Pointed Straight Down The Runway””. That is absolutely the correct phrase. But hey what do I know with only 17000 hrs and 7 type ratings?

  16. Sunil Guest

    A high gain Hamfisted Pilot. After 2500 hours of Airline flying as PIC on a narrow body Jet the learning curve is flat or starts to dip. Extra flying hours mean nothing. I wonder how he cleared his Simulator training and was not judged as a poor pilot earlier.

  17. Bob Guest

    I suspect the captain's comments about not knowing what all the computerized parts are doing wasn't necessarily he didn't know (i hope) and more likely the first excuse that came to his head when the FA asked. In any case sometimes a lot of experience doesn't equal quality experience.

  18. ORD Flyer Guest

    This is #’n disgusting on so many levels.

  19. NS Guest

    Yes there is pilot error. Transport aircraft are not Cubs or Champs. Boeing and Airbus are essentially the same. The rudder isn’t very effective until 80, so nose wheel steering is used as a crosswind control. After that the rudder becomes primary. Any aileron (side stick) input after 80 and before V2 (starting to fly time) simply adds drag and negates takeoff calculations. The spoiler is used and can induce additional yaw, making the situation...

    Yes there is pilot error. Transport aircraft are not Cubs or Champs. Boeing and Airbus are essentially the same. The rudder isn’t very effective until 80, so nose wheel steering is used as a crosswind control. After that the rudder becomes primary. Any aileron (side stick) input after 80 and before V2 (starting to fly time) simply adds drag and negates takeoff calculations. The spoiler is used and can induce additional yaw, making the situation worse not better.

    It sounds like the Captain was flying the bus like a cub. This is clearly a training issue, and his habit as noted by the transcript. Unfortunately with an airbus, the First Officer can’t see or feel what the Captain is doing with the side stick until the aircraft is airborne. Even then it is not always clear a la Air France.

    This is not a flaw in Airbus design or computers, it is a clear lack of understanding what makes transport category swept wing jets different. Action is habit tempered by training and experience. Hopefully someone in training helped the Captain understand the event was a result of his actions so he can change his habits.

    1. Capt. Over Guest

      Airbus allows a small amount of aileron input in a strong crosswind (not enough to cause roll spoiler deployment) but that was clearly not the problem here. Applying full rudder - and doing it in the wrong direction - is the reason this accident occurred.

  20. Mj Guest

    Sully was accused of pilot error also. Just sayin.

    1. JS Guest

      Sully was not accused of pilot error in the final report. On the contrary, the crew was applauded for good decision-making.

    2. Capt. Over Guest

      Not true. The NTSB investigation included an assessment of crew performance - as they always do. The purpose is to either confirm it, or to rule it out. Their final report clearly ruled it out.

      Also, if your opinion comes from what you saw in the movie, remember that it was a dramatization of real events. Overall Ron Howard did a good job with the story, but the NTSB investigators were portrayed in an...

      Not true. The NTSB investigation included an assessment of crew performance - as they always do. The purpose is to either confirm it, or to rule it out. Their final report clearly ruled it out.

      Also, if your opinion comes from what you saw in the movie, remember that it was a dramatization of real events. Overall Ron Howard did a good job with the story, but the NTSB investigators were portrayed in an unnecessarily negative light. Movie makers do it to create controversy that is later resolved in the happy ending.

  21. Rick Steele Guest

    I have more time flying A320s than either of these guys. Momentary full control on the stick isn't unusual if it's very windy but never ever on the rudder.

  22. Robert Guest

    I have about 16,000 total flight time, with around 12,000 hours in the A-320/321. Most of that from the captain's seat. I've landed the aircraft at the crosswind limit of 38 knots, perhaps a half-dozen times. Having cut my teeth on the MD-80 and B-757/767, I've come to like the fly-by-wire system, even if I enjoyed flying the traditional yoke. I'm aghast at what these guys were doing with the controls.

    I've never had to...

    I have about 16,000 total flight time, with around 12,000 hours in the A-320/321. Most of that from the captain's seat. I've landed the aircraft at the crosswind limit of 38 knots, perhaps a half-dozen times. Having cut my teeth on the MD-80 and B-757/767, I've come to like the fly-by-wire system, even if I enjoyed flying the traditional yoke. I'm aghast at what these guys were doing with the controls.

    I've never had to employ full rudder in any situation in this airplane, and even at the limits of landing (or on the takeoff roll), not needed full sustained displacement of the flight controls. On takeoff, anything more than about a third of sidestick, and the roll/yaw becomes a bit intolerable as you accelerate. I'm unimpressed, but more unimpressed with the thought process after the craft was airborne.

    The winds that day were ridiculously average. Sadly, the pilots' skills were below that.

  23. Win Whitmire Guest

    As an Airbus instructor, some of the comments made by other experienced pilots are entirely correct. Having taught the Boeing 777, it too is FBW but the Boeing has two yokes that are mechanically tied together. That makes a different "feel" when opposing control inputs are made. The side stick is a bit confusing at first but once understood and the method of overriding the opposing side stick is understood, it is quite safe and...

    As an Airbus instructor, some of the comments made by other experienced pilots are entirely correct. Having taught the Boeing 777, it too is FBW but the Boeing has two yokes that are mechanically tied together. That makes a different "feel" when opposing control inputs are made. The side stick is a bit confusing at first but once understood and the method of overriding the opposing side stick is understood, it is quite safe and easy to use. I don't find the Airbus side stick any different in a crosswind and, actually, a bit easier as one actually flies "with your fingertips" to nudge the plane where you want it to go. These two pilots, in my opinion, did the right thing initially in climbing to altitude where they could sort out the issue before returning. Their discussion regarding the politics of their actions was disquieting at best but they ultimately did the right thing. They did use the ASAP program as intended. Had they chosen to continue the flight, the intentional act of placing the aircraft (and passengers by default) in a perilous situation, would have negated the ASAP program's intent.

  24. JB Guest

    My first thought when reading this article was the striking similarity to AA587.

  25. RF Guest

    The captain should be demoted.

  26. Baze Guest

    Pilot- “it went t#%s up on us.”
    FA.- “Keep us abreast”

    Definition of irony.

    All kidding aside. SCARY.

  27. Dave Guest

    If this happened on a Boeing, pilots would've been let off easier cuz press would've pre-emptively blamed Boeing

  28. Sandy Guest

    THANK GOD ALPA got the 1,500 hour rule set. Kids like these don't have the experience and skills?

  29. Tim Dunn Diamond

    The most concerning part of this transcript release is that AA pilot training has been the focus of some of the very problems that happened in this incident.

    1. Ray Washington Guest

      A training department run by former AWA/USAir pilots.

  30. derek Guest

    Unclear if the copilot grabbed the captain's side stick or just assumed control with his side stick.

    1. Dan77W Guest

      He used his own sidestick, no reason to reach over, which would not even cross my mind (as a current 320 pilot), nor even possible unless you are Gumby

    2. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      No one here under 40 would have a clue who you're talking about. ;)

  31. Cal Walker Guest

    Maybe dig up the accident where the AA A300 (AA 587) First Officer ripped the vertical stabilizer off by repeated "full control", back and forth/full reversal, rudder inputs on departure from JFK after encountering wake turbulence behind a JAL 747. Read the entire thing. The Safety Board came down hard on the AA flight training program. Apparently this sort of thing was either taught or not discouraged.

    20,000 hour Captain or 3,200 hour First Officer....

    Maybe dig up the accident where the AA A300 (AA 587) First Officer ripped the vertical stabilizer off by repeated "full control", back and forth/full reversal, rudder inputs on departure from JFK after encountering wake turbulence behind a JAL 747. Read the entire thing. The Safety Board came down hard on the AA flight training program. Apparently this sort of thing was either taught or not discouraged.

    20,000 hour Captain or 3,200 hour First Officer. Neither were immune.

    1. Win Whitmire Guest

      Aircraft certified under FAR Part 25 are only certified for full deflection of the controls from "neutral" to full stop in one direction only. In other words, neutral to full left and neutral to full right not full left to full right. Yes, American did teach the upset recovery incorrectly as the first officer unintentionally snapped the vertical stabilizer off because that's the way he was taught.

    2. Ray Washington Guest

      Regardless, the rudder should have never have departed the aircraft. Piss poor design coupled with bad training.

  32. Captain Hindsight Guest

    On a new aircraft, is it better to have an old captain with years of experience on an old aircraft, or a young captain who has just completed full training on a young aircraft?

    1. Stacie B. Guest

      Maybe age can be a factor, but frankly speaking as one of the “girls in the back,” the larger problem is the Training. I knew this Captain and flew with him many times and trusted him completely. What I didn’t trust was the Airbus. The industry employees had already named it the scarebus 3 decades earlier, and Legacy AA had retired all of their Airbuses. With the merger of AA with USAirways, which had many...

      Maybe age can be a factor, but frankly speaking as one of the “girls in the back,” the larger problem is the Training. I knew this Captain and flew with him many times and trusted him completely. What I didn’t trust was the Airbus. The industry employees had already named it the scarebus 3 decades earlier, and Legacy AA had retired all of their Airbuses. With the merger of AA with USAirways, which had many Airbuses, Training for all employee groups went down significantly. This CA had spent many years on a Boeing 767, mostly as an FO, and was quickly thrust into the CA seat on a brand new Airbus that indeed had way more computer automation to it, seemingly rendering Pilots useless. The younger pilots tend to not be nearly as militaristic, often not taking the responsibility of their job nearly as seriously. That’s a win for the experienced pilot. But truth be told, a learning curve is certainly more challenging with age. This CA however had successfully flown this exact A321T for at least 6 years. Aircraft accidents are indeed usually pilot error, i.e. human error. But as one of the “girls in the back.” I trusted that human 10 fold over trusting that computer, or the new company that trained him.

    2. Rose Guest

      How sad to blame his training on USAirways. The training for FA’s at USAirways far surpassed the program at AA. I would expect the cockpit crew was the same. Perhaps he made many mistakes that day. .

  33. Robert Guest

    Don't make me go all full controls on you

  34. Gary Leff Guest

    This is all drama, stating the FO saves the day from the CAs mistake. I’m an MX tech for B6 and I can tell you that both pilots touching the controls excessively result in the computer cancelling each others input to the side stick unless the FO took control from him and he let go/ surrendered his control of the stick. Refer to AF 447.

    The issue is concerning for the fact they probably hit...

    This is all drama, stating the FO saves the day from the CAs mistake. I’m an MX tech for B6 and I can tell you that both pilots touching the controls excessively result in the computer cancelling each others input to the side stick unless the FO took control from him and he let go/ surrendered his control of the stick. Refer to AF 447.

    The issue is concerning for the fact they probably hit a microburst or crosswind to the point they were caught by surprise and had this insane experience and exchange of words. People forget that an a321, is heavy with fuel and pax (big payload to LAX), they were both at risk of something seriously happening but you can’t put the entire blame on the man that brought you back to safety.

    1. TT Guest

      You don't understand the Airbus (I have several years flying them). Airbus computers don't just "cancel" flight control inputs. If one pilot puts in some aileron and the other also puts some in, the computers add those inputs. The only way it is cancelled is if both pilots put in the exact opposite input at the exact rate and exact time (impossible). There is an override button on each side stick that let's the other...

      You don't understand the Airbus (I have several years flying them). Airbus computers don't just "cancel" flight control inputs. If one pilot puts in some aileron and the other also puts some in, the computers add those inputs. The only way it is cancelled is if both pilots put in the exact opposite input at the exact rate and exact time (impossible). There is an override button on each side stick that let's the other pilot take control if the other pilots side stick fails, but that button is not normally used. As far as microburst ( need a thunderstorm for that, usually causes excessive sink, not roll) or excessive crosswind (report was about 15 knots, not excessive) would all be obvious from the weather reports from the airport. Unlike most aircraft where you put aileron input on takeoff to keep the upwind wing from lifting (rolling), airbus fly-by-wire controls essentially keep the wings level and you use rudder on takeoff to keep the aircraft pointed straight down the runway. Excessive inputs of the rudder on takeoff can then translate to excessive roll as soon as the aircraft lifts off the runway, which sounds like what happened.

    2. William Guest

      I agree with most of what you're saying except for the cancelation of inputs. If one pilot puts in say 50% left aileron and the other inputs 75% right aileron, it will net out a 25% right turn.

    3. Lukas Guest

      Impossible to have exact opposite inputs? Tell that to AF447. It’s impossible to achieve opposite inputs simultaneously, sure. It is assuredly possible to have equal opposite inputs at full deflection.

    4. Eskimo Guest

      Wait, I thought Gary Leff is a blogger.

  35. Matt Guest

    Lucky, can you please find out for us what happened to the pilots in this incident and follow up? Thank you

  36. RetiredATLATC Diamond

    I've listened to numerous cvr's throughout my career and some of them are chilling.
    I was the FAA liason for US1016 and it gave me nightmares for about a year after all the transcriptions were finally finished.

  37. Shark Guest

    I bet the Pilot Association prevented or dragged on AA’s push to fire this incompetent, arrogant, fool!

    1. Matt Guest

      Do we know if they have been fired?

    2. D3kingg Guest

      @Matt

      American is already short pilots and planes are being grounded. They returned to the airport. Nothing happened. The FO intervened.

    3. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      ....a $120,000,000 jet getting so shredded that they have to write it off, is "nothing happened?"

  38. ConcordeBoy Diamond

    Thoughts went straight to AA587, which BTW was a traditional yoke and not a fly-by-wire aircraft.

    It was also the last total-fatal MAINLINE crash in US history (which is a testament to an incredible safety record overall).

  39. MFB123 Guest

    Whenever I’ve read transcripts such as this, I’ve found the interplay between AI automation and the human operator interesting, in that every once in a while you will hear me saying the same thing about my laptop (“why is it doing this?”, “it seems to have a mind of it’s own”, “how did that happen?”, “why am I suddenly in this mode”, “I know there’s a way to do X, but it won’t let me”)....

    Whenever I’ve read transcripts such as this, I’ve found the interplay between AI automation and the human operator interesting, in that every once in a while you will hear me saying the same thing about my laptop (“why is it doing this?”, “it seems to have a mind of it’s own”, “how did that happen?”, “why am I suddenly in this mode”, “I know there’s a way to do X, but it won’t let me”). Of course, when I’m sitting at my laptop, I have all the time in world to troubleshoot and the worst that’ll happen is I’ll say an expletive under my breath, reboot, and maybe walk away to compose myself. Pilots do not have that luxury (also, if I screwed up, no one will ever know). On a side note, I appreciate the comments by SMR.

  40. Amy Fischer Guest

    This is bad airmanship and excessive rudder inputs on takeoff is a known thing to avoid. With that said, this post makes some points that are not fair.

    The pilot does know how the computers work. He was discussing the problem with Airbus and having controls with no natural feedback. The computers on Airbus are a known issue for aviators because they don’t move the control surfaces as desired. All the flak that Boeing...

    This is bad airmanship and excessive rudder inputs on takeoff is a known thing to avoid. With that said, this post makes some points that are not fair.

    The pilot does know how the computers work. He was discussing the problem with Airbus and having controls with no natural feedback. The computers on Airbus are a known issue for aviators because they don’t move the control surfaces as desired. All the flak that Boeing has gotten for the MCAS is because Boeing had a different approach to Airbus in automated systems and it was never thought a Boeing plane would operate the way it did.

    1. Peter Guest

      This is definitely a bad airmanship. But there is also nothing wrong with Airbus side stick / FBW concept either, there is no "known" issue with Airbus computer... These two pilots clearly doesn't understand the Airbus very well. I have been flying Airbus for the past 16 years (but on the bigger bus 330/350), you NEVER need to put full rudder in cross wind take off... Even in engine inops on take off and max...

      This is definitely a bad airmanship. But there is also nothing wrong with Airbus side stick / FBW concept either, there is no "known" issue with Airbus computer... These two pilots clearly doesn't understand the Airbus very well. I have been flying Airbus for the past 16 years (but on the bigger bus 330/350), you NEVER need to put full rudder in cross wind take off... Even in engine inops on take off and max cross wind, you probably still don't need full rudder... In cross wind take off, you are supposed to apply a little alieron into wind and use the rudder only to keep the plane on the centerline of the runway. Usually only those who doesn't understand the Airbus will blame the computers, the computer is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. Only someone who doesn't have the knowledge of the system will think otherwise.

    2. flyingirish Guest

      Thanks for standing up for a great advancement in reliability and safety in transport category aircraft, the A-320 family. I personally have 16,000+ hours in A-320 type, 23,000+ hours in all types including B-727,B-737/200, B-737-500, B-757, B-767, A-320. This accident has same elements of indicators as the Continental 737 runway departure where the Captain's "technique" was full tiller deflection on crosswind takeoffs till nose rotation. That time he got caught and it snapped passed 45...

      Thanks for standing up for a great advancement in reliability and safety in transport category aircraft, the A-320 family. I personally have 16,000+ hours in A-320 type, 23,000+ hours in all types including B-727,B-737/200, B-737-500, B-757, B-767, A-320. This accident has same elements of indicators as the Continental 737 runway departure where the Captain's "technique" was full tiller deflection on crosswind takeoffs till nose rotation. That time he got caught and it snapped passed 45 degrees and it was into the weeds. Bad techniques not caught in training, not debriefed on the line, only come to bite crews in the ass sooner or later. We will see more of this as the training standards decrease for social wokeness.

    3. DavidS Guest

      "We will see more of this as the training standards decrease for social wokeness."

      Didn't expect that. I'm not a pilot and don't work in the industry. How have training standards decreased as a result of wokeness?

      Honest question as it just seems like an arena where "wokeness" would have a limited impact?

    4. flyingirish Guest

      the real stories of a "pass" now versus 10 years ago are legendary. when the new hire starts crying at an engine failure because they never even had a light bulb go out before... hiring standards right off the street because of mismanagement of personnel. Its the ingrained learned phycological profile that makes someone be able to compartmentalize tasks... not just a demographic chart. Those are ones safety minded managers need to find.

    5. Stacy B. Guest

      Couldn’t agree more. Your comment is exactly what I was trying to convey above. There is a major “lax”ness in the new generation of all work groups in the airlines. It’s actually quite shocking and if the woke don’t wake up and get serious about people’s lives in EVERY industry, that generation is going to have a real “Hindsight is 2020.”

    6. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      @ DavidS

      They haven't. That's just the calling-card word for people who'd rather blame society's ills on their own personal prejudices, rather than objectively think something through.

  41. Bob Guest

    At the very end of the NTSB transcript there is discussion about pulling the CVR circuit breaker. Would that have erased the conversations?

    1. Mikael Guest

      No, pulling the CB would prevent further data from being recorded onto the CVR and thus making sure that anything recorded on the CVR so far (during and after the incident) would remain there and not be overwritten.
      It is standard procedure to secure CVR recordings after an indicent by deactivating the recorder. Depending on the aircraft, there will be a specific switch for it or its just done by pulling a CB as suggested by the crew here.

  42. Ken Guest

    Any idea what happened to the pilot here? Is he still flying? If so, should he be? Can more training solve his '"problems" here?

  43. Andy Diamond

    I think it’s one more incident caused by pilots who were initially trained to fly traditional aircraft, with physical controls, giving feedback (e.g. showing resistance, bouncing back). This issue is covered extensively when they are transferred to fly-by-wire aircraft. But to my surprise some behavior sticks even after the type rating and several thousands of hours on the plane.

    I don’t think that the A320 family is unsafe in crosswind conditions. I’ve been discussing this...

    I think it’s one more incident caused by pilots who were initially trained to fly traditional aircraft, with physical controls, giving feedback (e.g. showing resistance, bouncing back). This issue is covered extensively when they are transferred to fly-by-wire aircraft. But to my surprise some behavior sticks even after the type rating and several thousands of hours on the plane.

    I don’t think that the A320 family is unsafe in crosswind conditions. I’ve been discussing this a while ago with a Latam Captain, after heavy crosswind landing at Punta Arenas (Chile). He told me that the A320 family actually helps to handle such situations - if you work with the computer and not against it.

  44. SMR Guest

    As an A320 pilot, I can say it is not the most conventional aircraft in crosswinds but it is by no means more difficult. During the takeoff roll if he was using rudder to compensate for the crosswind instead of proper aileron correction, I could see how the excessive yaw could lead to excessive roll. During takeoff the aircraft is in DIRECT law.. usually until about 50 feet or so. This means that although the...

    As an A320 pilot, I can say it is not the most conventional aircraft in crosswinds but it is by no means more difficult. During the takeoff roll if he was using rudder to compensate for the crosswind instead of proper aileron correction, I could see how the excessive yaw could lead to excessive roll. During takeoff the aircraft is in DIRECT law.. usually until about 50 feet or so. This means that although the flight computers still send fly by wire signals to the hydraulic actuators moving the controls...the controls move exactly as directed by the pilot and the flight computers themselves do not apply any of their own brain work. Glad everyone was ok. Not a very professional crew in how they conversed but they did avoid the worst. Even with all the NTSB data , always thought to fly someone else's airplane.

    1. Clarence Oveur Guest

      You obviously never flew an Airbus. The aircraft is in Normal Law - Ground mode during TO, automatically switching to Flight Mode shortly after lift-off. And per standard Airbus procedures you only use minimal , if any, aileron control during a crosswind TO, lifting off with ailerons neutral to prevent a roll command.

      There are no rudder protections on the Airbus so applying excessive rudder pressure during liftoff will result in excessive yaw eventually causing...

      You obviously never flew an Airbus. The aircraft is in Normal Law - Ground mode during TO, automatically switching to Flight Mode shortly after lift-off. And per standard Airbus procedures you only use minimal , if any, aileron control during a crosswind TO, lifting off with ailerons neutral to prevent a roll command.

      There are no rudder protections on the Airbus so applying excessive rudder pressure during liftoff will result in excessive yaw eventually causing a roll. This roll will be subject to normal law protections but, as shown here, when done close to the ground, a wing tip strike will occur prior to reaching that limit. (Which is exactly why you’re supposed to lift off with ailerons neutral to begin with).

    2. SMR Guest

      To correct myself... technically the aircraft is in Normal Law Ground mode until shortly after takeoff since there are some built in protections but during the ground roll and initial rotation the side stick does act as if it were in DIRECT law.

    3. LR Guest

      Hi folks, I’m not an Airbus guy. I am however very interested in the apparent disagreement in the views of the two Airbus pilots, TT and SMR. Could either/both of you expand a bit upon the correct x-wind takeoff technique in the A320 type? I’d be delighted to learn a bit more about this. Thanks guys/gals.

    4. Rusty Scan Guest

      From the Airbus 320 family Flight Crew Training Manual:

      “The traditional use of upwind aileron is not recommended. In strong crosswind conditions, small lateral control sidestick input may be used to maintain wings level. Excessive lateral input causes spoiler deployment, which increases the aircraft's tendency to weathervane and increases drag.
      If some lateral control has been applied on the ground, center the sidestick during rotation so that the aircraft becomes airborne with a zero...

      From the Airbus 320 family Flight Crew Training Manual:

      “The traditional use of upwind aileron is not recommended. In strong crosswind conditions, small lateral control sidestick input may be used to maintain wings level. Excessive lateral input causes spoiler deployment, which increases the aircraft's tendency to weathervane and increases drag.
      If some lateral control has been applied on the ground, center the sidestick during rotation so that the aircraft becomes airborne with a zero roll rate demand.”

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Robert Guest

I have about 16,000 total flight time, with around 12,000 hours in the A-320/321. Most of that from the captain's seat. I've landed the aircraft at the crosswind limit of 38 knots, perhaps a half-dozen times. Having cut my teeth on the MD-80 and B-757/767, I've come to like the fly-by-wire system, even if I enjoyed flying the traditional yoke. I'm aghast at what these guys were doing with the controls. I've never had to employ full rudder in any situation in this airplane, and even at the limits of landing (or on the takeoff roll), not needed full sustained displacement of the flight controls. On takeoff, anything more than about a third of sidestick, and the roll/yaw becomes a bit intolerable as you accelerate. I'm unimpressed, but more unimpressed with the thought process after the craft was airborne. The winds that day were ridiculously average. Sadly, the pilots' skills were below that.

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Peter Guest

This is definitely a bad airmanship. But there is also nothing wrong with Airbus side stick / FBW concept either, there is no "known" issue with Airbus computer... These two pilots clearly doesn't understand the Airbus very well. I have been flying Airbus for the past 16 years (but on the bigger bus 330/350), you NEVER need to put full rudder in cross wind take off... Even in engine inops on take off and max cross wind, you probably still don't need full rudder... In cross wind take off, you are supposed to apply a little alieron into wind and use the rudder only to keep the plane on the centerline of the runway. Usually only those who doesn't understand the Airbus will blame the computers, the computer is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. Only someone who doesn't have the knowledge of the system will think otherwise.

6
TT Guest

You don't understand the Airbus (I have several years flying them). Airbus computers don't just "cancel" flight control inputs. If one pilot puts in some aileron and the other also puts some in, the computers add those inputs. The only way it is cancelled is if both pilots put in the exact opposite input at the exact rate and exact time (impossible). There is an override button on each side stick that let's the other pilot take control if the other pilots side stick fails, but that button is not normally used. As far as microburst ( need a thunderstorm for that, usually causes excessive sink, not roll) or excessive crosswind (report was about 15 knots, not excessive) would all be obvious from the weather reports from the airport. Unlike most aircraft where you put aileron input on takeoff to keep the upwind wing from lifting (rolling), airbus fly-by-wire controls essentially keep the wings level and you use rudder on takeoff to keep the aircraft pointed straight down the runway. Excessive inputs of the rudder on takeoff can then translate to excessive roll as soon as the aircraft lifts off the runway, which sounds like what happened.

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