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Monday, December 21, 2015

UNCERTAINTIES OF THE QZ8501 INVESTIGATION

Hello World,

After a wait for almost a year after the QZ8501 accident, the final investigation report was released recently. The report indicates the cumulative effects of mechanical/system failures and pilot action as the cause of the accident. However, the report attributes pilot-action as the major cause of the accident. I looked up a few documents and the story seems to be something more than what’s being thrown at us in the form of official conclusion. In this post, I wish to look into the uncovered/ignored aspects of the investigation. Based on my understanding of the facts [as released] and further research, there were system inadequacies that forced the flight crew to attempt over-riding system-driven flight protocols and their efforts could not be completed on time, due to which the aircraft went down with the crew and passengers.

Findings of the Investigation:

Exhibit A:
Oddity 1:
Cracking of a solder-joint [of both channels] leading to a loss of electrical continuity indicates the electrical side of failure I had already warned of in my previous post on the accident. If there is no electrical supply to the system, the system will remain inactive unless it is powered by a back-up power line. 
The ambiguity that stands out to me is:

Was it ‘one’ solder joint that connected both channels [A&B]? 
Or
Was it ‘one’ solder joint for channel A and ‘one’ solder joint for channel B? [Both channels connected to the RTLU separately]

If it were two solder joints, one for each channel, then it should be two separate failures in which case the relationship between the two needs to be ascertained. 

If it was just one solder joint that connected channel A with channel B, then it is clear that the system did not have the needed electrical redundancy, indicating a serious design flaw considering the key flight-critical status of the equipment [the flight came to an end because this failed].

Irrespective of the real nature of the finding, the questions that remain are:
Why is ambiguity being installed in the very beginning of an accident report? 
Also failures such as these are usually a sequence of events. 
If the investigation could go the level of solder-joint failure, what led to the failure of the solder-joint? 
What type of load on the joint increase that it had to fail? 
Why is that side of the failure not being discussed in the report?

Oddity 2:
An ‘unresolved repetitive fault’ occurred 4 times during the flight and the responses registered indicated that the 4th response was not in accordance to that of the message. 

The question that stands out is:

For the first three times, the repetitive fault did not subside or revert based on the ‘message-compliant’ responses from the flight crew. 

Why is this not being discussed in the report?

If the procedural response fails to provide the relief for a crisis situation, the failure needs to be attributed to the ‘Non-fail-Safe’ nature of the system [a design flaw]. If the flight crew did not get the result of ‘message-compliant’ responses, then it is natural for them to resort to out-of-procedure efforts to resolve the crisis as the flight of the aircraft was in deterioration when such off-procedure input was given by the flight crew.

Why hasn’t the report indicated the ‘state of vulnerability’ of the platform?

My Findings 

Exhibit B1:


I came across this patent where the inventor has granted the assignment to Airbus Operations SAS [Assignee on the patent]. Now Airbus is the manufacturer of QZ8501 that went down. This patent, deals with the process for limiting the steering angle of control surfaces. 

The movable parts of an aircraft [the airframe to be specific], visible from the outside, apart from the doors and landing gear are the control surfaces [These are found on the wings, tail-plane and tail-fin]. These are used to control the aircraft’s flight at all times. 

This patent covers the process to control steering angle for control surfaces, specifically the rudder [the one on the tail fin that stands upright on the tail-end of an airplane].

Here’s Exhibit B2:


This description shown above clearly indicates the significance of the technology covered in this patent. Engine failure is being used as an example of abnormal flight condition and the observation describes the way an aircraft will behave when an engine fails. 

As per this observation, the rudder, the control surface on the tail-fin of an airplane will be required to bring back the aircraft to the flight line when an engine fails and the aircraft gets destabilized.  Through this observation, the patent implies, that the rudder will need higher steering clearance so it can produce the force necessary to bring the aircraft back to its flight line [control the destabilization faced by the aircraft].

Here’s Exhibit B3:


As shown in the figure above, the patent moves on to describe the traditional system’s inability to restrict the pilot from sending several commands. This indicates the intent of this technology/process as something related to restricting pilot activity in operating control surfaces under certain ‘abnormal conditions.’

Here’s Exhibit B4:


The patent then describes the outcome of such abnormal conditions when the pilot is allowed to send multiple commands to the rudder, will lead to dangerous failure modes. The patent specifically mentions that the tail-fin may break under these conditions. 

Now look at this picture below.

Exhibit C:

http://redwiretimescom.r.worldssl.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/redwire-singapore-air-asia-qz8501-black-box-1.jpg

The tail part was recovered separate from the rest of the airplane. Now there could be multiple theories for how the tail might have separated from the aircraft. However, the wreckage captured in the image directly reflects what the patent describes as a worst case scenario.

Now read this.

Exhibit D:


The Airworthiness Directive issued by FAA indicates the regulator’s acceptance of a finding that under certain conditions the allowable load limits on the vertical tail plane can be reached and possibly exceeded. The directive, as specified by the regulator, is valid for all Airbus model A318, A319, A320 and A321 series airplanes. The directive also mentions that the directive is valid from Dec, 29, 2015, indicating that the finding and directive have happened in the recent past. 

Such findings and directives going out so recently indicates that the A318, A319, A320, A321 series airplanes have so far been flying in a state of vulnerability and they have been lucky to escape such accidents simply because of the low probability of such failures. 

So the aircraft can fail under certain conditions. This is something that is always thrown out of the ‘Consideration Box’ used for any air accident investigation. The ideal case scenario of all-aircraft-are-safe is being thrust into our minds through carefully planned press releases and cover-up activities….All after hundreds of human beings went down into the ocean along with the aircraft.

Sadly the story doesn’t end here.

Exhibit E: 


EASA had issued a Proposal for an Airworthiness Directive dated 23rd July, 2014, indicating the need for a correction, failing which the aircraft will stand vulnerable to lose its tail fin during during flying conditions. The image above indicates that this directive was deemed applicable for a wide range of Airbus aircraft including Airbus A320-216, the one that went down.

The proposal also says Airbus has developed modifications within the Flight Augmentation Computer [FAC] to activate a conditional aural warning within the Flight Warning Computer [FWC] to prevent pilot-induced rudder doublets. 

So the European regulator was aware of such a ‘condition of vulnerability’ that Airbus aircraft were under and proposed an Airworthiness Directive [AD]. Irrespective of whether the AD was implemented or not, the fact that Airbus aircraft had vulnerabilities including that of losing the tail-fin during specific flight conditions. As I have always pointed out, the probability of occurrence of any event should have no bearing on the risk perception of the same. Potential impact, in this case is, loss of aircraft and therefore it should have higher priority. For some reason, frequency and probability of occurrence is being used as a key criteria for prioritising any risk-mitigation effort.

Further research back into the past reveals this:

Exhibit F: 


‘Safety First,’ The Airbus Safety Magazine dated January, 2005 featured an article on the need for enhanced pre-flight checks involving risk conditions, with one of them being the failure of the Rudder Travel Limiter Unit [RTLU]. The article, as you can see the image above, classifies it as an ‘event of undue rudder travel limitation.’

2005 is long back and even then, there had been vulnerabilities with respect to the RTLU in Airbus aircraft. This indicates that Airbus aircraft, like any other aircraft has always stood vulnerable to abnormal flight conditions, including those that concerned the RTLU, the system which failed during the QZ8501 accident.

Conclusion

Based on the oddities and interpretations I derive from the observation of the exhibits presented above, this is what I think happened with QZ8501.

The aircraft, like any other had remained vulnerable to specific abnormal flight conditions and the supplier’s effort to mitigate this risk [concerned with the RTLU] resulted in restricting the pilot’s capacity to take control of the aircraft. 

What was deemed as too-much-freedom for error resulted in a change that took too-much-of-necessary-capacity from the flight crew during those specific abnormal flight conditions. 

So when the aircraft went into what was deemed a ‘very-low-probability’ scenario, it deviated away from its dedicated flight-line and it had to be recovered. The flight crew had responded as per procedure three times to recover the aircraft but realised that the risk-mitigation change was not allowing them to do the same. The 4th time, the flight crew had no other choice but to try to disconnect the controls from the flight computer that was implementing the ‘pilot-restricting’ control criteria. Unfortunately, they couldn’t achieve the recovery in time and the aircraft went down with the crew and passengers.

While the nature of the abnormal flight conditions is still kept out of our minds through ‘official’ statements comprehensively covering obscurity and generality, we can recall what the patent describes as a possible abnormal flight condition: engine failure. This is why I wanted to know if the engine part of the wreckage was recovered and if yes, the details of the engine wreckage inspection. 

Summing up, many events must have occurred in a certain unfortunate sequence that led to system failure and the eventual loss of the aircraft QZ8501. We may never come face-to-face with the truth since the truth will stand in the way of a multi-billion dollar market that hangs on the ‘perception of reliability’ the aircraft brands thrust into the operators’ minds. However, we can be sure that solder joint failures leading to electrical discontinuity don’t occur out of the blue just like that. Also pilots are not fools to try to disconnect the flight computer unless the situation demands such an effort. 

When a report says, someone lost their life because of a knife entering their back and that the victim had by some means consciously maintained proximity to a sharp knife during the event, it is absolutely obvious that someone might have stabbed the victim. Just because the report doesn’t use the word stab doesn’t mean the victim absolutely walked into a knife protruding out of something uncertain [in this case the hands of the assailant]. Just my thought.


Regards,


Saturday, November 21, 2015

ISIS or ISIL? MULTIPLE BRANDS FOR TERROR, THE BACKGROUND AND POSSIBILITIES

Hello World,

As ISIS is gaining notoriety at a global level, my observation of a specific segment of news tells me something is off-key and it is not by default but rather by design. I am not sure about the details and so I wish to begin with my observation and try to drive backwards to see if there is a starting point that is reachable from this point in time.




Here is my observation:

Obama and ISIL

Barrack Obama, in almost all of the interviews and speeches he did, is using the term ‘ISIL’ instead of ‘ISIS.’

Here is a small compilation of video clips of him using the titles ‘ISIL’:

video


Now from what I understand, ISIL stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

What I don’t understand is why is the head of a nation  intentionally using a brand that is otherwise largely neglected by the mainstream media. My automatic response is to look into the possibility of a reason behind such an insignificant yet odd-looking outlier.

ISIS/ISIL and What They Are

Here is a small clip compilation of Barrack Obama defining the ‘ISIL’ as he [or should we say, the US administration] perceives it to be:

video


Even when the journalist uses the term ISIS, Barrack Obama uses the term ISIL. He doesn't seem to care to make the correction established. Here is a clip showing that:

video


So the definition here indicates that those who were affiliated with Al-Qaeda and/or other larger terror networks in Iraq got together to form a new alliance for an operations of their own.In one way, this makes a little sense. My understanding says, ISIS [I would call it this way] is an integrated terror network where one large group decided the branding and objectives and other regional groups pledged their support to the growing brand and the brand is on a continuous expansion mode as new groups across the Middle-East are integrating under the ISIS banner while also attracting international terror groups.

Here’s what confuses me. See below a video clip of a press-meet where Barrack Obama says he ordered the speeding up of the training of ‘ISIL’ forces and Sunni tribes:

video


The news reports indicate that the White House later clarified it was a typo/mis-spell incident and the statement had not intended to use ‘ISIL.’

If it was not ‘ISIL’, what was it? ……ISIS??? Also apart from the specific banner, he also mentions Sunni tribes. So the US government has been actively supporting other groups in its ‘Regime-Stabilization’ operations in the Middle-East.

My interpretation is, if ISIL and ISIS are in fact two different things and Barrack Obama made a mistake of using ISIL’s name during the press-release, then the US administration perceives the existence of ISIS [or something other than ISIL but sounds very similar to ISIL] that are pro-democratic rebel groups representing different clans in the region. Then there are Sunni tribes too that were trained/helped.

US Involvement in Anti-ISIL Efforts

Here’s another clip from an interview where Barack Obama mentions the US involvement in supporting Sunni tribes that are resisting ‘ISIL’:

video

Earlier, Barrack Obama said US forces helped and trained Sunni tribes to fight against Al-Qaeda and they reconstituted to integrate with ISIS. Now he says the US administration is working to support Sunni tribes that are operating against ISIS.

Here is the next confusion I have as Barrack Obama makes gives a slightly contradicting definition of what has happened with ‘ISIL’:

video


Now, based on what Barrack Obama said, if Al-Qaeda was a vicious group that was quashed by US Marines with the ‘HELP OF SUNNI TRIBES’, and ‘they’ were able to reconstitute themselves later on, then clearly it has to be one of the two following options:

Option 1: The Al-Qaeda group that was ‘quashed’ by the US marines reconstituted themselves.

This means the US operations against Al-Qaeda in Iraq wasn’t entirely successful.

Option 2: The Sunni tribes that helped US troops reconstituted themselves.

This means the US administration made a mistake in choosing their right ally or at east failed in keeping the ad-hoc ally in check. Basically what it means is, they got weapons from the US troops and then vanished along with them…only to be back in a different name.

Getting down to the Syria connection, here is a clip where Barrack Obama clarifying US administration’s aspirations with respect to Assad’s regime in Syria:

video


The questions that rise are:

Why would the US help smaller rebel groups and leave them unchecked after the operation? Is that militarily impossible to do? If yes, then that indicates the deficiency/weakness of US/NATO military operations in the Middle East?

Why would the US continue to help support and train regional rebel groups, including Suni tribes, in spite of knowing that part to whole of them are going to integrate with the ISIS terror network?


The State of the Western Military Involvement in the Middle-East

Owing to budget cuts, both US and its NATO allies are finding it hard to carry out extensive military operations. However, their military help is required in the regions that does not have a powerful government military arm to effectively crack down on the terrorist groups [including ISIS].

The Arab Spring movement just complicated things as many regional rebel groups sprung up fighting oppression and anti-democratic regimes. Now the Middle-East has more than expected rebel groups with many of them integrating under the ISIS banner. 

However, it is very evident that the US/NATO forces at some point in time had a part to play in the arming and training of the rebel groups that are now part of ISIS.

From a NATO perspective, Europian countries are also still struggling with budget cuts and are not in a position to carry out dedicated large-scale military operations in the Middle-East. With the Remotely Piloted Aircraft [RPA] strikes growing, following the troops drawdown from Iraq/Afghanistan, the European military forces are now obligated to contribute to the collaborative efforts in the Middle-East.

The current trend is to receive specific ‘Air-Strike Packages’ from NATO members and allies and use them in the Middle-East. However, the european countries had to avoid excessive contribution as they are facing funding shortages and rising internal demand [civilian] for funds. Another reason for this might also be Russian military operations in Ukraine and alleged intrusive air operations in the Easter-Europe air space. The European countries in the eastern ends of Europe not only have limited funding to support their militaries but also need their military forces to make presence felt over their air space that they feel is being intruded by Russian military aircraft. 

Out of some weird coincidence, it is exactly during this time [of European countries gradually refraining from extensive collaboration in the Middle-East] the terror attacks on the European countries happen. 

If the countries now agree to share intelligence seamlessly, what were they doing so far?

Why are terror attacks influencing actions that were otherwise restricted by reducing military budgets?

Why now, when these terror attacks could have happened anytime after the troops drawdown from Afghanistan/Iraq? 

There need not be a specific connection, but my interpretation refuses to accept the absence of such a thing. 

The Syrian Confusion

While US/NATO allies are trying to contribute to collaborative military operations in the Middle-East [including Syria] and continue to maintain a negative stance against Russia, they are now facing Russia actively taking part in the effort maintaining an individual stand. Russian forces have been conducting air raids on ISIS targets. The US/NATO allies are now seeing their publicised antagonist playing the larger protagonist role in Syria. 

However, it has to be noted that the US administration is consciously expecting a regime change in Syria as it feels Assad represents an anti-democratic leadership. That may be the reason for the media propaganda that has been accusing Russia of failed strikes and hitting civilian or pro-NATO targets.

In the end, the US, from what Barrack Obama said, has been directly or indirectly responsible for a part of the ISIS terror network’s growth over the past few years. If the US administration cannot track or control the integration of the rebel groups they helped in Iraq in the past, then it only indicates an obvious lack of capability on the US/NATO side. 

The question is, Why help someone whom you cannot track or control? If you have helped someone with weapons and training and now they are fighting against you, are you not using your own taxpayer’s money to fund the killing of your own soldiers? What were you thinking then and what are you thinking now?

To be fair, it takes a big heart to spend one’s taxpayers’ money for the benefit of some other countries’ citizens. So from that perspective, the intentions are all good. However, the contradicting methods of stabilising and/or de-stabilizing regimes in the Middle-East indicates that the objectives are not entirely what they are being released to the media. 

My subsequent question is, why use taxpayer’s money to do something internationally which cannot be revealed in entirety?

Summing Up

Getting back to the ISIS vs. ISIL branding confusion, my interpretation says that for some reason the US administration perceives the brand ‘ISIS’ as something related to an ally from the present or the past. That is why there is a deliberate avoidance of the term ‘ISIS’ which is being replaced by ‘ISIL.’ 

Irrespective of what ISIS or ISIL is/are, the names represent a terror network wreaking havoc in the Middle-East. Why bother so much about mentioning the ‘RIGHT VERSION OF THEIR NAME’????

If such a concern is being genuinely addressed and efforts are being made to use a specific term to describe a FREAKING TERRORIST GROUP, with the executive head of a country’s administration exercising that effort at an individual level, then there is something behind it that we as commoners do not know entirely about. It may not be what I might propose, but it definitely exists and it exists at the cost of billions of taxpayers’ money from multiple countries.

So my conclusion is that, Barrack Obama does not want to officially record an opinion where the US administration admits all non-government military activity in Syria as ‘TERRORIST’ activity. The reason is, it wants Assad to be removed and ISIS group is allegedly operating against the current Syrian administration headed by Assad. 

Why is something we may never know but we can be absolutely sure that ‘ISIS’ and ‘ISIL’ are not necessarily the same from certain perspectives and the perspectives are not being publicly elaborated. It is the deliberate withholding of clarity on trivial aspects such as the branding of a terror group [or groups should I say] that tells us, there is a lot more than meets the eye or ears and that those cost a whole lot of taxpayers’ money.

So, what would you recognise as the REAL ISIS BRAND? Does ISIL mean anything different to you? In the end, we are now facing a terror network that has successfully established two brands in the minds of its victims, observers and adversaries. While any act of terror or human rights violation is condemnable, why are we still struggling to use the same name to describe the bad?

Regards,










Video Credits: 
abc, 60-minutes, C-Span, WH-gov