Friday, December 28, 2001

Possible 587 Explanation

An alert reader (would any other kind find this dank little corner of the web?) found this possible explanation for 587's midair disintegration:

Terrorist Scenario

The mechanical engineer, aviation ground school instructor and former NASA adviser painted this scenario:

During the night, a terrorist saboteur disguised as a ground crew mechanic reached up in the back of the left jet engine of the American Airlines Airbus and cut the hydraulic line going to the thrust reverser actuator and the control safety sensor lines.

The next morning after the jet engines were started, the hydraulic fluid began dripping from the cut line.

When the aircraft was about 3,000 feet in the air, the sound of an "airframe rattle” was heard in the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) record. Cause: the tampered-with left thrust reverser had started to close, causing the plane to turn to the left.

The pilot compensated by applying right rudder to bring the nose back to straight flight by turning to the right.

The aircraft commenced a "side slip.” During this condition, the burbling air flowing over the extended control surfaces made the plane shake, rattle and roll, accounting for the airframe rattle noise heard on the CVR at 107 seconds into the flight.

The pilot thought he had overcompensated, worried about losing too much airspeed, and returned the controls to normal. The rattling momentarily stopped as indicated on the CVR.

The plane continued to turn back to the left.

Seven seconds later, one of the flight crew commented about "air turbulence.”

The pilot again tried to compensate for the plane's strong drift to the left caused by the partially closing thrust reverser by again applying right rudder and opposite aileron. The same rattling sound is heard at 121 seconds into the flight.

Four seconds later, at 125 seconds into the flight, the first officer calls for "full power,” presumably to compensate for the side slip, which had slowed the plane down to dangerously low speed.

As soon as the power went to full, the spinning effect caused by the partially or fully actuated thrust reverser caused the plane to spin out of control in a flat spin.

Two seconds later, at 127 seconds, the CVR indicated the flight crew making a comment about being out of control. No more comments are made after that, and the recording ends 17 seconds later when the plane hits the ground.

Fighting to control the aircraft, the pilot held full right rudder and hard left aileron just as the left thrust reverser came into the full-on position. The application of full power greatly increased the turn to the left, created a huge side force on the tail and rudder assembly, and snapped them off cleanly.

Within another second, without the vertical tail assembly to slow the spin, the plane spun violently to the left about the center of gravity of the airplane. The plane spun horizontally with the full power from both engines increasing the spin faster and faster until both engines broke off.

The flight crew at the front was thrown violently forward with such g-force they were instantly rendered unconscious or killed, explaining why no more comments from the flight crew are heard after applying full power.

With the plane completely out of control and the engines still running at full power, the engines broke away ripping the fuel tanks in both wings and igniting the plane.

My main point is that the wreck of AA 537 (and for that matter TWA 800) has yet to be explained satisfactorily. There is strong political and financial pressure for the FAA or NTSB to cover up possible successful terrorist acts on US carriers, especially considering the most noteable defeats of terrorist attacks on our planes have not been by our government protectors but by normal passsengers and citizens.
Dulles, Ptuii!

If you get the above reference you'll probably enjoy reading the first chapter of longtime reader Claire Berlinski's Loose Lips. Even if you don't understand the significance of expectoration after uttering Dulles' name (it's from Tom Robbins' Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, another novel relating to the CIA which I enjoyed) take a look at her site and give it a read. She has a Clancy-like grasp of the technical details but with the characters that are imperfect and believable. Having spent 2 years as an undergrad at Tulane (in New Orleans) prior to my eventual enlistment and the subsequent security checks as my resposibilities increased with rank, the following passage has the uncanny feeling of a shared memory:
I'll never know how I got through that background investigation. Mind you, I didn't really have any skeletons in my closet. I'd never killed anyone, if that's what they wanted to know. I'd always lived a more or less lawful life. But I'd smoked a lot of dope. For God's sake, I was a Sanskritist.

According to the CIA Website, "recent" or "frequent" drug use could prove disqualifying. They offered no precision of these terms. I admitted on the form they sent me that I'd had some acquaintance with the cannabinoid family, as they called it, but I left ambiguous the issue of quantity, hoping they wouldn't ask. When the background investigator, a gray man in a gray suit, came to my apartment to interview me in person, he asked me exactly how many times I'd ever gotten stoned, as if I would have the faintest idea. I fished around for a number that sounded plausible but not excessive.

"About ten?" Actually, it would probably be easier just to tell you about the times I wasn't stoned.

"Are you sure of that number?

"Um ... it's a little hard to remember. It was a while ago. Maybe less?" Well, Sir, I was pretty much stoned all through college. Yeah, I was pretty much stoned the whole time. Once or twice I stopped smoking to take finals or something, you know? So I'd just say I was stoned, well, technically, four or five times, but for a very, very long time each time, okay?

"And would you consider this to have been experimental usage?"

"Yes, exactly." The experiment indicated a strong relationship between smoking dope and getting high as a kite.

He looked suspicious. "You sure about that?"

"Yes." How could I be sure about anything? I was stoned out of my mind.

Read it, you few but hypersmart readers of my blog, you'll like it.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

Whew, what a mess!

Destructive hackers are soooo lame. It's vandalism pure and simple. Nothing cool or romantic about it. Stealing credit card numbers I understand, (but don't condone). Grrrr! Anyway, I had a longer post with links, but blogger ate it in the recent troubles. My main point was: What if the sneaker bomber was actually repeating what had already been proven successful with AA flt 587 out of Laguardia? I have not heard much in the way of explanation as to why it just fell apart in the air and fell out of the sky, but given recent events, as I said in my first post here, Occam might actually choose the terrorist explanation.

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Bryan has some great stuff on one of my favorite dead horses over at junkyard blog:

Our military hasn't "fought the last war" in Afghanistan--in fact, it has fought a war so thoroughly modern and unlike any previous war that the punditry's collective head is still spinning. Our Air Force, Army Navy and Marines looked like aliens from space compared to their Taliban enemy, thanks to superior firepower and positively brilliant tactics and planning. The FAA had better adjust its thinking similarly, less the next would-be terrorist use a less obvious fuse (the guy on AA63 tried to light the darn thing with matches!) and succeed.

Read the rest. Great minds think alike.

Oh oh!

I haven't been able to download any of the Santa video from NORAD. Their server must have got clobbered. I wonder if it has anything to do with this report from Ebeneezer Den Beste @ CLUELESS? OTOH how come I can't enjoy Christmams movies without seething at the socialist slant in so many? From the anti-commercialism blather in Miracle on 34th Street to actually agreeing with Potter and wanting to bitch slap George in It's a Wonderful Life, it seems Christmas Spirit is automatically associated with fuzzy headed economic thinking. I suppose it's hard to avoid with a holiday based on gifts coming form a man in the sky. Crimeny, I should have known something was up once I started rooting for the Klingons in Star Trek.

Monday, December 24, 2001

Santa's Safe

NORAD's Santa tracking website is a yearly favorite at the del Castillo household (and we don't even have kids). Right now they are showing last year's trip, which is great if you haven't already seen it.

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Say Hello to the New Boss

As I sit here in the throes of a beef Wellington and bourbon buzz (yeah it sucks, my wife, a Nola caterer by way of Emeril's AND yoga instructor (I AM the luckiest guy in the world) makes me test her creations) Fess' comment re the Cooper tune got me to thinking (as much as is possible in the aforementioned state). Soon after 911 we attended a Cowboy Mouth concert in Audubon Park where they opened with "The Star Spangeled Banner" and followed with a literal and determined version of The Who's "We Won't Get Fooled Again." Everybody there got the point and cheered their collective hearts out. It was cathartic. The wimpy self-pitying PC spectacle of the whole Hollywood telathon (with the exeption of Tom Petty's "We Won't Back Down"), never cut it with the crowd who were ready to roll. The first band to cover and release Alice Cooper's "No More Mister Nice Guy" in the new year will have a hit. I hope it's Cowboy Mouth.
I'm Baaaack

Well the party went great. NYC was great. I detected a genuine feeling of good will from its citizens that transcended the usual holiday stuff. This is a city that has suffered a shattering blow but now, mourning pretty much done, has decided to get back to work. BTW if you are thinking of moving there, as I am, at least for part of the time, and need to find an apartment, I can personally guarantee these guys deliver the good stuff (and cheap cuz you do the legwork).

Some random thoughts on recent events and experiences:

Flying: How many lives have been saved by raising tray tables and putting seats in the upright condition? Is there a single flying human being who cannot figure out how to use the seatbelt without being told? Should this person be allowed to mix with the flying public without a handler? How much money and time are wasted on such trivialities? It's probably good to point out the exits, but I tire of listening to the how to fasten and release my seat belt almost as much as I suspect the flight attendants do of demonstrating. I suspect we get this kind of stuff from the FAA, yet another bloated federal agency of dubious utility.

Security:I got "randomly" checked twice. Fine. I happen to be a big swarthy guy travelling alone and you can judge a book by its cover. Yikes! You should definitely check certain covers anyway. How many islamokazis are women, anglo, old, whatever, anything but 20-30 yr old middle eastern looking men? Sure, randomly check others in the off chance that some other bin Walkers are out there, but if someone fits the profile, they should be screened extra carefully. If they are not islamokazis, I'll bet some, like myself, would even appreciate the effort. Supposedly the French questioned the would be shoe bomber earlier but then let him go. Some think we should declare war.

The sneaker bomber: First of all, kudos to the crew and passengers. I am surprised they showed such restraint. Someone must have said the dingbat was worth something alive. As for the security in Paris; Does this guy look like a Richard Colvin Reed? Helloooo! It seems to me that if this is the best the terrorists can come up with then they are pretty much done. A match to light the fuse or whatever? What, couldn't afford a lighter before the final flight to meet the sloe eyed virgins? What a maroon. OBL and his ilk must be lamenting the fact that you just can't find good suicide bombers anymore....