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VC 10 T Tail Deep Stall.

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Simon Cocker reports on the birth of a show-stopper Subscribers Only

Flanker .09/12/2012 19:12:11
622 forum posts
5 photos

Hi all. It was great to read about the new VC 10 that will be gracing the shows.

I was a little worried as I remembered something about T Tail airliners getting into deep stall that due to the nose up pitch of the stalled, swept main planes, was "Unrecoverable".

After reading up on the matter it seems that the '10 is about the only airliner never to have been lost due to the above condition. How cool is that ? Good old Vickers !

So no worries. Hope t see a video of it soon.

Go Well, F

Simon Chaddock10/12/2012 18:11:04
5715 forum posts
3034 photos

The deep stall condition was well under stood and British airliners of the period had both stick shakers and stick pushers that operated before a stall could develop.

The Trident "deep stall" crash in 1978 near Staines was in part due to the practise of deploying the Kruger flaps (leading edge droops) on take off which gave a steeper climb.

In the Stains incident the pilot retracted them well below the minimum retract air speed and over the next 3 seconds ignored the stick shaker and pusher and finally switched the system off.

I would not worry about a deep stall.

The biggest risk flying a VC10 appears to be being hijacked. Of 9 airframe losses to date, 5 were the result of a hijack! wink 2

David perry 111/12/2012 08:31:54
1054 forum posts
13 photos

I love the idea of pilots turning off warning systems. Theres a great audio tape we listen to at work time and again, of a Mexicana jet getting waaaayyyyy too low. "Terrain terrain, pull up pull up" it goes. The last sound is a Hispanic voice saying "aw, shaddup gringo..." Silence.


Sad, but avoidable.



Edited By David perry 1 on 11/12/2012 08:32:07

Brian Cheyne22/08/2014 11:07:51
23 forum posts
11 photos

There is a nice explanation of the Deep Stall experiments in the BAC 111 display at Brooklands, including the structure for the tail parachute that was used in testing

Mark Kettle 122/08/2014 13:19:23
2543 forum posts
1568 photos

Simon the air crash was 18th June 1972 - Sunday British European Airways (BEA) Trident 1C departed from London, England for scheduled air service to Brussels, Belgium, but crashed near the town of Staines at 16:11 GMT.

Link on you tube -

malcolm woodcock 122/08/2014 17:12:23
403 forum posts

I liked the much missed 'Cabin Pressure' where they play cockpit buckaroo by seeing how many warning systems they can turn off. Seems a little too plausible amongst bored flight crews.

Stuart C23/08/2014 01:48:15
135 forum posts
4 photos

I once had a long chat with a retired BEA pilot about the Staines crash. He told me that the real cause was that the engines were unable to deliver the maximum thrust due to the stalled air off the mainplane. He added that after this disaster, no new designs were produced with rear engines. He was a real character out of the Biggles era - a joy to listen to.

Levanter23/08/2014 08:11:45
883 forum posts
437 photos

Character - Biggles, this sounds dodgy (no offence BEB). I have spent hours and hours in Canadair Regional Jets all built by Bombardier. There are at least six aircraft in the range and all have aft mounted engines. The MD82 and MD88 were in production within 10 years of the Staines crash. Fantastic aircraft with a very steep climb-out. Two famous crashes on these aircraft were caused by the flaps and slats not being configured for take-off so flying straight into a stall.

Comac, Fokker and Tupolev and have aft mounted engines and the Yakkovlev Yak 42 had three engines at the back. Furthermore just about every executive jet has aft mounted engines and so on......

I am glad though that we have these story tellers.

Colin Leighfield23/08/2014 12:40:38
5996 forum posts
2503 photos

The T-tail deep stall issue was the reason why the Gloster Javelin was banned from being deliberately stalled or looped in service. To limit the risk of the pilot pulling too hard on up-elevator and getting into deep stall, the stick was bungee loaded forward. In fact the plane was perfectly capable of being looped, but it meant that at the top of the loop the pilot had to remember to over-ride the the bungee bias to force the stick right back. If he didn't, it would stall out of the loop a the top and go into a spin. To get out of that would probably take 30,000 ft, so if it did that the crew would eject. I recently read of one that went in from 17,000ft. this way, the crew ejected late and the pilot survived but not the navigator.

The failure to rectify this basic limitation in the prototypes was the reason that test-pilot Bill Waterton refused to sign the plane off as fit for service and got sacked by Gloster for his pains. Disgraceful really. A good plane in many respects, but these weren't characteristics you'd normally accept in a fighter.

Lawrence Clarke28/08/2014 09:35:51
1 forum posts

I went round the Trident factory in the early 60's (at Luton?). I remember being told that a problem with the Trident was the third engine mounted on top of the fuselage at the bottom of the fin. At high angles of attack the engine became virtually ineffective because of air turbulence caused by the fuselage so the intake of the engine was pulling in turbulent air.

Colin Leighfield28/08/2014 10:53:19
5996 forum posts
2503 photos

Lawrence, I hadn't heard that but it sounds possible, although there's no doubt that wasn't the cause of the Trident crash. However I suppose that if it ever got into that situation, any loss of thrust from the top engine would cause the two lower engines to become dominant and make the problem even worse. You can see why the absolute priority with all planes of this specification is to make absolutely sure they never get into a high alpha situation stall in the first place, because at the low altitudes where it's most likely to happen, the plane will never get out of it.

Apart from the awful Trident incident at Staines, the cause of which is accurately described by Simon as I remember it, the one that made the biggest impression on me was the loss of the BAC111 prototype in 1963, which killed the great Mike Lithgow and his team. That of course was a T-tailed rear engined twin rather than a three like the Trident, the issue was simply the deep stall consequence of tailplane blanketing during stall testing.

Although different, the other crash that shook me was one with an ATR42 (20 years ago)? in the USA which went in vertically from over 20,000ft. and was smashed to fragments in the desert. That was caused by a defect in the rubber de-icing boots on the wings that changed the wing profile, if I remember rightly and made the dive irrecoverable. I was over there not long after in one of those things and remember hitting clear air turbulence so bad that red wine in a glass on my table hit the ceiling. I was aware of the recent crash and confess that I was nervous.

Andrew Price 228/08/2014 11:41:58
821 forum posts

It could be your last so order by the bottle in future Colin.

Colin Leighfield28/08/2014 12:25:29
5996 forum posts
2503 photos

Actually I had Andrew, sadly though as you know bottles on planes are small items!

Another one was on a flight back from Dusseldorf in 2003 , in a BA HS146. We were at cruising altitude approaching the French border when the plane suddenly lurched and rolled right 10/15 degrees. I was sitting in an aisle seat on the left side. The plane corrected back to level flight then lurched again and rolled sharply right to 45 + degrees, I was looking down on the passengers sat in my row on the right side of the plane. Simultaneously there was a load bang, followed by a sensation of burning across my back. I really thought that we'd had it. Then the plane rolled back to level and settled down. There was a commotion behind me, so I turned and discovered that at the point of the sharp and steep second roll, a hostess had been pushing the trolley up the aisle with a kettle of boiling water balanced on top and this had gone over and tipped its' comtents all over me! Fortunately I was wearing a jacket so although sore I wasn't scalded, albeit soaking wet! I was taken to the back of the plane and the hostess removed my shirt and rubbed cream into my back, which I rather enjoyed.

I was told that the airline would write to me and explain the incident, I hold a PPL and wanted to know what happened. Weeks went by and no letter so I wrote and demanded an explanation. I had a cursory reply a few days later which in effect said sorry and glad you're ok, bye-bye. I wrote again for the attention of the Managing Director and said in effect that if you don't respond properly this will go further. I then had a proper reply which explained that when approaching French Air Traffic Control area the pilot had called for clearance to climb from FL23 to 24. He had been cleared to do so and was flown straight into the wake turbulence of a preceding plane, which nearly turned us over. Strewth! It was being flown into wake turbulence of a preceding plane that ripped the fin off an Airbus A320(?) in New York shortly after 911 and killed everyone on board.

However they apologised and offered me free return flights for two to any of their route destinations in Europe. My wife and I got a weekend in Berlin out of that, so alls well that ends well. The 146 has a T-tail of course, but that had nothing to do with this incident!

Andrew Price 228/08/2014 12:41:38
821 forum posts

Blisteringly good story though.

Colin Leighfield28/08/2014 13:09:21
5996 forum posts
2503 photos

It's still a sore point.

Andrew Price 228/08/2014 13:17:08
821 forum posts

Thought it went down your back!! frown

Tony F28/08/2014 13:27:48
484 forum posts
105 photos

Scary Colin....!!! It Was an Airbus A300 and even though it was wake turbulence that the pilot got into from a B747 it was American Airlines training policy at the time that let this crew down......they were trained in the use of aggressive rudder corrections that ultimately led to a failure of the it was pilot error not wake turbulence that caused the crash.

I was in an RAF Tristar in 1986 that encountered severe clear air turbulence that nearly turned the plane that was frightening....!!!!


Colin Leighfield28/08/2014 13:37:19
5996 forum posts
2503 photos

Andrew, I refuse to enlarge on the detail.

Tony F, thank you, you're right, I remember reading about the issue of the rudder. I was a bit concerned though to hear that over zealous use of the rudder would cause the fin to break off, would that have happened with a Boeing 737?

The thought of being in a Tristar in the process of rolling inverted would worry me slightly, I must confess. The 146 was bad enough!

Tony F28/08/2014 13:47:49
484 forum posts
105 photos

With regards to a B737 I've never heard of a rudder falling off ? But rudder "hard overs" occured twice in the past with fatal results and also once in flight with Quantas I believe but landed safely ??? That is full travel one way or the other of the rudder uncommanded by the pilot.....nasty.

As for the I was returning from 6 months on the Ascension Island and staring out of the window day dreaming when we started getting a little bumpy.....drinks spilling , overhead lockers popping open and burly men making girly noises. I was watching the right wing bounce up and down thinking " I hope they make them strong" when it seemed like the plane was turning to the left.....wing went up......up.....up and up some more , all the time bouncing quite badly.......memory is hazy now but I swear I saw sea above the wing....bings and bongs were going off in the cabin and 1 or 2 soldiers fell out of their seats.....the pilot regained full control....descended a bit then carried on.....not one explanation was given....!!!!!


Andrew Price 228/08/2014 14:07:27
821 forum posts

Even a small detail counts!

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