|37000 Feet||Browse and search NASA's
Aviation Safety Reporting System
|Local Time Of Day||1801 To 2400|
|Locale Reference||atc facility : rwf|
|Controlling Facilities||artcc : zmp|
|Operator||common carrier : air carrier|
|Make Model Name||Widebody, Low Wing, 3 Turbojet Eng|
|Navigation In Use||Other|
|Affiliation||company : air carrier|
|Function||flight crew : captain|
oversight : pic
|Qualification||pilot : atp|
|Experience||flight time last 90 days : 130|
flight time type : 150
|Affiliation||company : air carrier|
|Anomaly||other anomaly other|
|Independent Detector||other flight crewa|
|Resolutory Action||none taken : insufficient time|
|Air Traffic Incident||other|
We departed sfo and were inbound to msp via direct rwf. The WX had been marginal for msp when we left, and had continued to deteriorate during the flight. About 75 mi out of rwf we were directed to hold as published at rwf with an efc of XD35Z. Msp had gone below minimums for CAT I equipped aircraft. We complied and reported in holding at XC55Z. I immediately asked my second officer to call msp dispatch and relay the holding clearance, fuel on board, and request current WX for several surrounding stations. He did, and replied that dispatch had requested us to standby-they'd call us back. Our reserve requirement was approximately 12500#. We figured that it would take 46 mins, and about 15000 pounds to fly to oma, which was the alternate I had requested prior to leaving sfo, due to the fact that ast, our assigned alternate, had WX that was marginal for an alternate, with precision approachs at opp ends of the same runway, and the wind did not justify the use of both ends of the runway there. At the time we entered the hold, we had about 45000# of fuel on board, which would allow us to hold for nearly 50 mins. The visibility was up and down at msp. CAT ii's were being allowed to make apches and occasionally a CAT I aircraft was invited in. Oma WX was currently advertising thunderstorms to the southwest, moving northeast, and north winds gusting to 35 KTS on the surface. Frontal passage looked close. I requested msp dispatch to advise a better alternate, and was again told to standby. At XD30, I called dispatch again to advise them that unless we heard from them in the next 15 mins, we would leave for oma. They again advised us to standby. At XD40 we got our clearance from ATC to depart for oma, and were returning to the holding fix to take up a departure heading when ATC offered us an approach to msp. They were aware of our fob. Visibility at msp was 1800 V 2400. I declined, and we proceeded to oma. Another 5 mins later msp dispatch rang us up and requested we proceed to dtw. I asked if he was aware of the fact that we had only 27500# on board. He was surprised, and immediately ok'd oma. We proceeded there, picking our way through the cells just to the northeast of the field and blocked in at XD30Z with 13000 pounds fob. Wind on the approach was 35/25g35. Fortunately, in terms of time and fuel saved, the thunderstorms had just moved past to the east, and we didn't have to hold at oma. I guess the point to this story, was that msp dispatch was less than no help at all. I say less than none, because they laid the trap for us of directing us to dtw, which would have caused us to arrive with only 7000 pounds on the aircraft had we accepted, and no real alternative but to land under any conditions. I don't think that we could have done any more to draw their attention to our needs, and I wouldn't have done less. Our requests were not what you'd call outrageous either. Granted msp was a mess, and DC9's were scattering everywhere for lack of fuel--aren't ours supposed to be CAT ii? But certainly this reveals a serious flaw in our staffing of dispatch if the first low minimums of the season catches them at the point where they can't offer any service within an hour. I say staffing, because I rarely have a complaint about their skills or ability to respond quickly under ordinary circumstances, and the evident reason for the lack of service would appear not to be the slowness of individuals to respond, but rather not enough to do the job. If this kind of service from dispatch is indicative of their ability to respond in other than cavu conditions, then we are effectively west/O their aid in critical situation--even so far as concerns aid in evaluation of a different alternate with changes in the WX. If that is so, then I believe the company had better take a more realistic look at the staffing requirements for this department, or we'll be paying through the nose someday with a loss of lives making up the shortfall for our penny wise and pound foolish policies. I write this letter with no intentions of requesting immunity for any actions on my part, since I believe we acted consistently with good practicein this cast, and there were no untoward consequences, but rather with a view toward contributing something to the database which I believe might be a trend in our company and others due to dereg--that is, tightening up on available manpwr with a view towards good fiscal management. The problem is that the results of this type of move are difficult to document, and analyze--but I believe they are there, and are becoming apparent in small but insidious ways. I do not believe that we can afford to sacrifice safety in this way. When fuel is short, and your arrival airport is down to minimums, and the normal sources of communications for WX are jammed, it is important that a pilot have the ready assistance of dispatch. Choosing an appropriate alternate in a situation where a widespread area adjacent to your destination is showing poor conditions is critical, and making a stabilizer in the dark with less than adequate communication, information or help with analysis of the situation can have results that will ruin the rest of your day.
Original NASA ASRS Text
Title: ACR FLT CREW HAD DIFFICULTY CONTACTING THEIR DISPATCH OFFICE WHILE ENROUTE.
Narrative: WE DEPARTED SFO AND WERE INBND TO MSP VIA DIRECT RWF. THE WX HAD BEEN MARGINAL FOR MSP WHEN WE LEFT, AND HAD CONTINUED TO DETERIORATE DURING THE FLT. ABOUT 75 MI OUT OF RWF WE WERE DIRECTED TO HOLD AS PUBLISHED AT RWF WITH AN EFC OF XD35Z. MSP HAD GONE BELOW MINIMUMS FOR CAT I EQUIPPED ACFT. WE COMPLIED AND RPTED IN HOLDING AT XC55Z. I IMMEDIATELY ASKED MY S/O TO CALL MSP DISPATCH AND RELAY THE HOLDING CLRNC, FUEL ON BOARD, AND REQUEST CURRENT WX FOR SEVERAL SURROUNDING STATIONS. HE DID, AND REPLIED THAT DISPATCH HAD REQUESTED US TO STANDBY-THEY'D CALL US BACK. OUR RESERVE REQUIREMENT WAS APPROX 12500#. WE FIGURED THAT IT WOULD TAKE 46 MINS, AND ABOUT 15000 LBS TO FLY TO OMA, WHICH WAS THE ALTERNATE I HAD REQUESTED PRIOR TO LEAVING SFO, DUE TO THE FACT THAT AST, OUR ASSIGNED ALTERNATE, HAD WX THAT WAS MARGINAL FOR AN ALTERNATE, WITH PRECISION APCHS AT OPP ENDS OF THE SAME RWY, AND THE WIND DID NOT JUSTIFY THE USE OF BOTH ENDS OF THE RWY THERE. AT THE TIME WE ENTERED THE HOLD, WE HAD ABOUT 45000# OF FUEL ON BOARD, WHICH WOULD ALLOW US TO HOLD FOR NEARLY 50 MINS. THE VIS WAS UP AND DOWN AT MSP. CAT II'S WERE BEING ALLOWED TO MAKE APCHES AND OCCASIONALLY A CAT I ACFT WAS INVITED IN. OMA WX WAS CURRENTLY ADVERTISING TSTMS TO THE SW, MOVING NE, AND N WINDS GUSTING TO 35 KTS ON THE SURFACE. FRONTAL PASSAGE LOOKED CLOSE. I REQUESTED MSP DISPATCH TO ADVISE A BETTER ALTERNATE, AND WAS AGAIN TOLD TO STANDBY. AT XD30, I CALLED DISPATCH AGAIN TO ADVISE THEM THAT UNLESS WE HEARD FROM THEM IN THE NEXT 15 MINS, WE WOULD LEAVE FOR OMA. THEY AGAIN ADVISED US TO STANDBY. AT XD40 WE GOT OUR CLRNC FROM ATC TO DEPART FOR OMA, AND WERE RETURNING TO THE HOLDING FIX TO TAKE UP A DEP HDG WHEN ATC OFFERED US AN APCH TO MSP. THEY WERE AWARE OF OUR FOB. VIS AT MSP WAS 1800 V 2400. I DECLINED, AND WE PROCEEDED TO OMA. ANOTHER 5 MINS LATER MSP DISPATCH RANG US UP AND REQUESTED WE PROCEED TO DTW. I ASKED IF HE WAS AWARE OF THE FACT THAT WE HAD ONLY 27500# ON BOARD. HE WAS SURPRISED, AND IMMEDIATELY OK'D OMA. WE PROCEEDED THERE, PICKING OUR WAY THROUGH THE CELLS JUST TO THE NE OF THE FIELD AND BLOCKED IN AT XD30Z WITH 13000 LBS FOB. WIND ON THE APCH WAS 35/25G35. FORTUNATELY, IN TERMS OF TIME AND FUEL SAVED, THE TSTMS HAD JUST MOVED PAST TO THE E, AND WE DIDN'T HAVE TO HOLD AT OMA. I GUESS THE POINT TO THIS STORY, WAS THAT MSP DISPATCH WAS LESS THAN NO HELP AT ALL. I SAY LESS THAN NONE, BECAUSE THEY LAID THE TRAP FOR US OF DIRECTING US TO DTW, WHICH WOULD HAVE CAUSED US TO ARRIVE WITH ONLY 7000 LBS ON THE ACFT HAD WE ACCEPTED, AND NO REAL ALTERNATIVE BUT TO LAND UNDER ANY CONDITIONS. I DON'T THINK THAT WE COULD HAVE DONE ANY MORE TO DRAW THEIR ATTN TO OUR NEEDS, AND I WOULDN'T HAVE DONE LESS. OUR REQUESTS WERE NOT WHAT YOU'D CALL OUTRAGEOUS EITHER. GRANTED MSP WAS A MESS, AND DC9'S WERE SCATTERING EVERYWHERE FOR LACK OF FUEL--AREN'T OURS SUPPOSED TO BE CAT II? BUT CERTAINLY THIS REVEALS A SERIOUS FLAW IN OUR STAFFING OF DISPATCH IF THE FIRST LOW MINIMUMS OF THE SEASON CATCHES THEM AT THE POINT WHERE THEY CAN'T OFFER ANY SVC WITHIN AN HR. I SAY STAFFING, BECAUSE I RARELY HAVE A COMPLAINT ABOUT THEIR SKILLS OR ABILITY TO RESPOND QUICKLY UNDER ORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES, AND THE EVIDENT REASON FOR THE LACK OF SVC WOULD APPEAR NOT TO BE THE SLOWNESS OF INDIVIDUALS TO RESPOND, BUT RATHER NOT ENOUGH TO DO THE JOB. IF THIS KIND OF SVC FROM DISPATCH IS INDICATIVE OF THEIR ABILITY TO RESPOND IN OTHER THAN CAVU CONDITIONS, THEN WE ARE EFFECTIVELY W/O THEIR AID IN CRITICAL SITUATION--EVEN SO FAR AS CONCERNS AID IN EVALUATION OF A DIFFERENT ALTERNATE WITH CHANGES IN THE WX. IF THAT IS SO, THEN I BELIEVE THE COMPANY HAD BETTER TAKE A MORE REALISTIC LOOK AT THE STAFFING REQUIREMENTS FOR THIS DEPT, OR WE'LL BE PAYING THROUGH THE NOSE SOMEDAY WITH A LOSS OF LIVES MAKING UP THE SHORTFALL FOR OUR PENNY WISE AND POUND FOOLISH POLICIES. I WRITE THIS LETTER WITH NO INTENTIONS OF REQUESTING IMMUNITY FOR ANY ACTIONS ON MY PART, SINCE I BELIEVE WE ACTED CONSISTENTLY WITH GOOD PRACTICEIN THIS CAST, AND THERE WERE NO UNTOWARD CONSEQUENCES, BUT RATHER WITH A VIEW TOWARD CONTRIBUTING SOMETHING TO THE DATABASE WHICH I BELIEVE MIGHT BE A TREND IN OUR COMPANY AND OTHERS DUE TO DEREG--THAT IS, TIGHTENING UP ON AVAILABLE MANPWR WITH A VIEW TOWARDS GOOD FISCAL MGMNT. THE PROB IS THAT THE RESULTS OF THIS TYPE OF MOVE ARE DIFFICULT TO DOCUMENT, AND ANALYZE--BUT I BELIEVE THEY ARE THERE, AND ARE BECOMING APPARENT IN SMALL BUT INSIDIOUS WAYS. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT WE CAN AFFORD TO SACRIFICE SAFETY IN THIS WAY. WHEN FUEL IS SHORT, AND YOUR ARR ARPT IS DOWN TO MINIMUMS, AND THE NORMAL SOURCES OF COMS FOR WX ARE JAMMED, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT A PLT HAVE THE READY ASSISTANCE OF DISPATCH. CHOOSING AN APPROPRIATE ALTERNATE IN A SITUATION WHERE A WIDESPREAD AREA ADJACENT TO YOUR DEST IS SHOWING POOR CONDITIONS IS CRITICAL, AND MAKING A STAB IN THE DARK WITH LESS THAN ADEQUATE COM, INFO OR HELP WITH ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION CAN HAVE RESULTS THAT WILL RUIN THE REST OF YOUR DAY.
Data retrieved from NASA's ASRS site as of August 2007 and automatically converted to unabbreviated mixed upper/lowercase text. This report is for informational purposes with no guarantee of accuracy. See NASA's ASRS site for official report.