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Crashing And Bursting Into Flames Immediately After Landing In Memphis | Over The Limit

FedEx Express Flight 647 is flying between
Oakland, California and Memphis, Tennessee. The aircraft operating this cargo service
is a McDonnell Douglas MD-10F registered as N364FE. The MD-10 is an upgraded version of the McDonnell
Douglas DC-10. The upgrade includes an Advanced Common Flightdeck
used on the MD-11 and was launched in 1996. The new cockpit eliminates the need for the
flight engineer position and allows common type rating with the MD-11. This allows companies such as FedEx Express,
which operates both the MD-10 and MD-11, to have a common pilot pool for both aircraft. In 32 years of service, the aircraft operating
flight 647 accumulated approximately 65,375 flight hours and 26,163 takeoff and landing
cycles. In command of the flight is a 59-year-old
captain. He was hired by Flying Tigers Airlines in 1978
and became a FedEx employee when the two companies merged in 1989. He holds an airline transport pilot certificate with a multiengine land rating and a flight engineer certificate for turbojet-powered
aircraft. The captain’s ATP certificate indicates type
ratings in the Cessna 500 (issued in 1977) and the MD-11 (issued in 1996). Throughout his career, the captain accumulated
21,000 total flight hours, including 2,600 hours in the MD-10 and MD-11 series of aircraft. Flight 647 is the last day of the flight crew’s
4-day, 3-leg trip during which the captain of the flight is conducting a line check for
the first officer. FedEx required this line check because the
first officer was a flight crewmember involved in an altitude deviation that occurred shortly
after departing Stanstead, England, in November 2003. The 44-year-old first officer was hired by
the airline in 1996. FedEx records indicate that the first officer
has about 15,000 total flight hours, including 1,918 hours on the MD-10/MD-11. As previously mentioned, the captain is conducting
a line check of the first officer because an aircraft she was piloting in early November
2003 was involved in an altitude deviation. The first officer stated that, when the altitude
deviation occurred, ATC had cleared the flight to flight level 230 during the climb out,
but she and the captain believed that they heard the air traffic controller clear the
flight to FL 330. As the aircraft neared FL 260, ATC advised
the flight to return to FL 230. As a result of this excursion, the first officer
and the captain were required to complete a line check. The first officer’s line check is being conducted
today on flight 647. At about 12pm, as the aircraft approaches
the airport, the captain obtains the current ATIS information for Memphis. ATIS, or Automatic terminal information service,
is a continuous broadcast of recorded aeronautical information in busier terminal areas, such as
airports and their immediate surroundings. ATIS broadcasts contain essential information,
such as current weather information, active runways, and available approaches. Pilots usually listen to an available ATIS
broadcast before contacting the local control unit, which reduces the controllers’ workload
and relieves frequency congestion. As the aircraft descends towards the airport,
the captain states that the winds are out of Two minutes later the first officer states The captain responds, “do what you want,”
and provides additional information about normal arrival operations, addressing typical
stepdown and traffic pattern procedures, altitudes, airspeeds, and the probability of an early
turn into Memphis. The first officer acknowledges the information
and requests the in-range checklist. At about 12:03 pm, the captain states, “you’re
driving and you stay focused on that and make me do whatever you need done.” The first officer states “okay.” At 12:06 pm the captain contacts Memphis Approach
which instructs the flight to expect an approach to runway 36L. Nine minutes later, Memphis Approach informs
the pilots that they should expect to land on runway 36R instead of 36L, as previously
instructed. Six minutes later the captain radios that
they have the airport in sight. The controller clears them for a visual approach
and instructs the captain to contact Memphis Tower which warns the crew of potential wake
turbulence from an Airbus flying ahead of them, and clears the flight to land. The aircraft is configured for landing, and
the crew discusses adding 4 knots to the Vref speed. A single tailwind shear alert then sounds. Moments later, with the aircraft descending
through 1000 feet, the captain confirms that the approach is stable and the approach to
land is continued. During the 20 seconds before touchdown, the
aircraft’s descent rate is 12.5 feet per second (fps). At 12:25 pm, the aircraft’s left main landing
gear touches down at a rate of about 12.5 fps. About 1 second later, the right main landing
gear touches down at a rate of about 14.5 fps. The MD-10 landing gear is designed to be capable
of absorbing energy that is equivalent to a maximum airplane descent rate of 12 fps. The excessive vertical and lateral forces
on the right main landing gear during the landing exceeds those design limits and results
in the fracture of the outer cylinder and the collapse of the right main landing gear. As a result, the aircraft begins banking and
turns to the right. The crew is unable to steer the aircraft back
to the left. As a result, it skids off the right side of
the runway and comes to a stop in the grass. Shortly after coming to a stop, there’s an
explosion, and a fire develops on the right side of the aircraft.
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