Schiphol crash: cockpit doors have to get better than this

There is a lot yet to learn about the Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 crash at Schiphol.

Just about everything, in fact.

But this was an accident – like many recently – that was survivable by all, or at least most, of the people on board.

An unconfirmed report in the Turkish English language daily newspaper Hurriyet has just alleged that at least one of the pilots survived the crash, even if he might not have survived rescue.

The imminent week’s issue of Flight International reveals that the rescue crews could not get through the anti-hijack security door to the flightdeck, and eventually they had to recover the three pilots’ bodies through a hole they cut in the roof.

Is this the scenario rescue crews face in a future accident in which pilots are injured such that they can’t either evacuate themselves or operate the flightdeck door?

If so, the designers have some fast work to do to improve this sad legacy of the 9/11 terrorist suicide attacks, because the safety of pilots following an otherwise survivable accident is not a negotiable issue.

And this is not the only disadvantage the cockpit security door has brought to today’s airline operations, as any pilots or cabin crew will tell you.

5 Responses to Schiphol crash: cockpit doors have to get better than this

  1. Ronald Cumolla 28 February, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    So doors have to become better?

    Better than what actually?

    I love this sound professionalism of basing solid claims on unconfirmed reports, alleged eye witness reports, whatsoever.

    So, taken as a given, do you know, that the primary cause for not being able to open the door hase been the fortification of the door?

    A highly deformed fuselage structure blocking the door, is a nearby thought, but obviously too far for you. The same applies for dislocated cockpit interiours or panels, which may block the door.

    Could any door have been opened under these circumstances?

    Nobody knows. But you. Fast with conclusions, weak on facts. Hope flight returns to more professional journalism soon.

  2. David Learmount 28 February, 2009 at 5:34 pm #

    This door almost certainly became jammed because of deformation. The fact is that the rescue crews don’t have a way to deal with an anti-hijacking door that has become jammed. Smart design could deal with that. It is not beyond the wit of today’s engineers to work out an answer.

    The anti-hijacking door was rushed in as an emergency measure after 9/11, and the security logic behind it was basically sound although it clearly had some crew coordination downsides.

    Now, in the cold light of day we are beginning to see some more of its downsides.

    This is an opportunity to learn. It is certainly not good enough to do nothing and leave crews at risk of a situation like this. But I don’t suppose you were suggesting that nothing is done.

  3. Oliie361 28 February, 2009 at 6:35 pm #

    David Learmount has a point!
    Old cockpit doors, the way they used to be, you could mash your way in or out!
    It’s time to grow up and get rid of these rbain washing ideas about security.
    Let us start having a life again, flying with pleasure rather then anxiety that something tremendous will happen any given moment.
    Security measures before boarding and loading an aircraft should be enough and final.
    Why not go back to the good old days, when flying was a pleasant adventure with smiling personnel and open communications between pax and flightdeck!
    Mothers with kids could come and look in the cockpit and dream of becoming pilots themselves some day, the kids of course!

  4. Ronald Cumolla 28 February, 2009 at 6:42 pm #

    I am actually supposing nothing but professional investgative journalism. That means a thourough investation and verification of facts before drawing conclusions.

    Everythings can be the case here. Nobody knows. Of course the doors could be reinforced up to a level making it impossible to destroy them with standard rescue crew equipment. I don’t know. Maybe someone common to cockpit door design can express his/her opinion here.

    But of course it is possible. In Germany, we had a similar issue with reference to the high speed ICE train accident in Eschede, where it became obvious that fire fighters were not able to open ICE windows from outside because their strength was beyond their equipment capacity. The design was changed subsequently.

    But that is not the point, I wanted to make. I am simply suggesting to verify the actual cause for the inaccessibility of the cockpit compartment before drawing conlusions.

    Best regards

  5. KD Sim 3 March, 2009 at 11:03 pm #

    Ronald Cumolia,

    I am new here, but personally I see nothing to indicate that;

    1. Mr Learmount claims to be a professional investigative journalist. Is this not simply a blog?

    2. Mr. Learmount is drawing any conclusions.

    Presumably, (this is an assumption, not a conclusion) since you are posting comments here, you read the same entry I did. And that make me curious to discover the “conclusions” you find yourself drawn to Mr. Cumolia, based on these opening sentences?

    There is a lot yet to learn about the Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 crash at Schiphol.

    Just about everything, in fact.

    And the conclusions you draw from the exerpts below?

    An unconfirmed report in the Turkish English language daily newspaper Hurriyet has just alleged that at least one of the pilots survived the crash, even if he might not have survived rescue.”

    Is this the scenario rescue crews face in a future accident in which pilots are injured such that they can’t either evacuate themselves or operate the flightdeck door?”

    If so, the designers have some fast work to do to improve this sad legacy of the 9/11 terrorist suicide attacks, because the safety of pilots following an otherwise survivable accident is not a negotiable issue.”

    My own “conclusion” from the above is that Mr. Learmount is quite consciously NOT drawing conclusions, but merely speculating on what might be the case if certain factors turn out to be true.

    I read his posting as saying that there are many questions about this incident, and “if” these questions result in certain answers “then” conclusions are be drawn, and actions be taken.

    I was not able to conclude, as you did in your posting (Feb 28/09 2:26 pm) “Fast with conclusions, weak on facts” from my reading of this post.

    Hope commenting returns to more comprehensive reading and fewer “jumping to conclusions” soon.

    Regards
    KD Sim