BA038 – so Peter Burkill was right (and brave) about the flaps

BA 777-200ER.jpgTucked away in the epic technical detail of the AAIB´s report on the crash of British Airways Boeing 777 G-YMMM is the human story of Capt Peter Burkill´s split-second decision to reduce the flap-setting. That decision is still being discussed by knowledgeable and not so knowledgeable people and doubtless will be for a long time to come.

As of today we know two new things. First, from the AAIB – page 86 of the report – is that Burkill was correct. Reducing the flaps did stretch the glide. Not by much – about 50m – but as it happens, by enough to miss the ILS antenna. That may or may not have mattered much, the antennas being designed to break in those circumstances – we´ll never know.

But just as (maybe more) importantly we also know from his BBC interview overnight that Burkill believed the aircraft was going to touch down in the cluster of buildings and people known as Hatton Cross. That would have been quite horrific. And believing that, he took the decision to raise the flaps. (As it happens he subsequently still thought he was going to die and apparently said goodbye to his wife – which is quite a good reason for not releasing the CVR or providing a full transcript.)

The main counter-argument, as far as I can see, now goes that the same decision resulted in an increased final rate of descent and hence damage, injuries etc. Maybe, maybe not, but Burkill´s achievement, like Sully Sullenberger´s in New York, was to make the tough decision. Plenty – probably the great majority – of pilots could have landed on the Hudson and made it over the fence to Heathrow – but not all would have taken the decision to opt for the river over a distant but tempting runway, or to raise the flaps.

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10 Responses to BA038 – so Peter Burkill was right (and brave) about the flaps

  1. RobH February 9, 2010 at 7:55 pm #

    The guy’s a damned hero in anyone’s book. Find him a buy him a pint!

  2. uk visa February 10, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    I think we all need to form and orderly queue behind RobH…
    And the fact that he managed to tell his wife that he loved her puts him at the very top of the list of top heroes in my book.

  3. Jhan Jensen March 9, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    Any Pilot that thinks of others above himself is a Hero! I don’t care if the flaps should have been Up, Down or what ever. His thoughts were to get his passengers down safely. I applaud the board in not releasing the entire transcript from the CVR, here in the US it would have been broadcast on every network and splashed on every tabloid.

  4. John Airey March 30, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

    Anyone who thinks that not reducing the flaps was a good idea has no understanding of the basics of flight. Four forces are in operation – lift, weight, thrust and drag. With no engines pushing the plane forward the drag from the flaps will slow the plane down to the point where it will stall and at that point there is no control. In other words you would have to attempt to glide the plane as far as possible. Captain Peter Burkill’s decision saved more lives than just those onboard. I really can’t fathom why he isn’t flying any more.

  5. American Sailor April 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    People shouldn’t be second guessing him- they weren’t there in the cockpit, so they’re in no position to judge.

  6. randomhouse April 22, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    he was bulliedout of BA and the managers allowed it to happen – happems all the time

  7. randomhouse April 22, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    he was bulliedout of BA lies and deceit and wish to rmove him by 1st officers – a frequent way out for senior captains who are not valued by BA and have no status at BA – very dangerous situation in the cocpit — poor poor man – a hero – oward the co-pilot said that it was all down to him and burkhill might as well not have been there as he was the saviour of the craft and the lives – see the various news articles in the mail given by coward

  8. Welbourn Nigel April 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    This airline Captain was bulliedout of BA. The First officer claimed the heroic task of saving lives . The story gained legs and the BA management that could have nipped itin the bud did nothing at all to stop the insubordination and lies and deceit of Coward the co-pilot, who should have been diciplined.

    Bullying is a common problem at BA. BA repeating that there is an anti-bullying policy does not stop it. At BA the complaint of Bullying – often by inferior staff – makes the one who complains the target for ganging up of managers and co-pilots to oust the person who is now seen as by BA as a trouble maker for complaining about the bullying

    Even Managers asking very senior managers to intervene in the situation to stop the bullying, to clear up problems , to allow a peaceful stress free undertaking of a captain’s work does not help as a victim of bullying suffers more by senoir managment then being hostile to the victim too, seeing them as a nuisance for complaining. The managers fail to assist and drill into the problem which is nearly always born of insurbordination by junior staff –

    Bullying is a frequent way out for captains as they are not valued by BA

    Passengers shoulb be aware of the very dangerous situation in the cockpit of the bullying of captains and make their assessment accordingly as to who to fly with

    You do not believe me?- just type “British Airways” AND bullying into a search engine and see the hits you get evidencing the major major problem at BA. Even fathers of co- pilots were gloating that Burkhill was bullied out as that would mean that the long line waiting for his job all moved up one and BA allow it all to go on

    A manager in an I.T actually stated that BA managers are not of the best — How do I know – I work for BA – the bullying of these brave captains must stop as the increased stress is bad for safety , morale, health , and the public face of BA,

  9. blagbuck November 4, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    This airline Captain was bulliedout of BA now he comes back as he has no option financially . The First officer claimed he and he alone was the one saving lives . BA management could have stopped it but did nothing at all to stop the insubordination and lies and deceit of Coward the co-pilot, who should have been diciplined nor the rumours that he spread to ruin this pilots career

    Bullying is a common problem at BA. BA anti-bullying policy does not stop it. At BA the complaint of Bullying makes the one who complains the target for ganging up of managers and co-pilots to oust the person who is now seen as by BA as a trouble maker for complaining about the bullying. They do this by telling pilots that they “have something on them”, taking other pilots out for drinks and saking them to dig the dirt orr even make up tales about the victim they have in their sites , so that all the talk sems to be about a particular person , delaying in dealing with a bully victim comcerns, dragging out the matter and failing to give full and complete information so a man can properly defend thamselves.

    Even Managers asking are now very senior managers not to intervene in the situation to stop the bullying, to clear up problems , to allow a peaceful stress free undertaking of a captain’s work as they all want to hang together.

    so cpmplaint does not help as a victim of bullying suffers more by senoir managment then being hostile to the victim too, seeing them as a nuisance for complaining. so Bullying is a frequent way out for captains as they are not valued by BA

    just type “British Airways” AND bullying into a search engine and see the hits you get evidencing the major major problem at BA.

    Now all this is underground, BUT THERE IS A NEW LAW THAT AFFECTS ALL THIS AND A CLASS ACTION HAS STARTED THE BA CHAIRMAN SHOUL DRILL INTO ALL CASES_WHERE HARRASSMENT AND BULLYING IS ALLEGES OVER THE LAST 6 YEARS AND sort it all out as the case will cost millions to defend and settle – there is still time , for the bullied you know the firm — use it

  10. Dozy Joe August 2, 2013 at 1:53 am #

    Obviously this is an old article, but felt I should state for the record that what happened to Capt. Burkill after the accident was a travesty. However it was not bullying, nor was it even elements within BA that caused the problems, but the disgraceful behaviour of the UK press in their pursuit of an exclusive. Given the facts that have emerged from the Leveson inquiry, that probably shouldn’t be surprising.

    Let the record state that after the clamour died down Capt. Burkill returned to BA, who welcomed him with open arms, and I for one wish him a happy and safe career from this point on.

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