Randomly spiralled out of control in descent

On approach to Kefalonia Airport (LGKF), my plane stalled and spiralled uncontrollably, crashing me in to the sea. My callsign was ‘Speedbird 139’ and I was flying on an iPhone 8 on iOS 12.1.4.

I don’t have any screenshots but, I was passing through 7000 ft at 180 kts with Flaps 1 on an Airbus A320 at a VS of -2000.The NAV autopilot was starting a turn on to the crosswind leg but I thought it started the turn too early so I decided to take control, disconnecting the NAV then HDG before I was going to level it the plane.

Then, as soon as I disconnected the NAV, the plane spiralled out of control, crashing in to the sea with absolutely no chance of recovery. I’m 100% sure it was correctly calibrated and even if it wasn’t, it surely wouldn’t cause something like that to happen?

I was just wondering if I had done something wrong (too steep a descent, too low a speed or incorrect flap setting), if this was a bug of some sort or if it has happened to anyone else…

Thanks

Hello!

If it was correctly calibrated them I’m not sure what could of caused this, but if it wasn’t then something like this is possible if you have calibrated your iPhone at a completely different position to what you are flying now when taking back manual control.

I’m sure others will be able to provide some input on the correct speed and flap settings for the specific aircraft.

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Have you read any weather information before reaching the area you crashed on? Maybe there was a Storm/Hurricane passing? Useful app to check Windy.
I actually have no idea yet on how it all happened.

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Hi,

I remember that strangely there was literally no wind at all at LGKF (0kts) at the time despite it being windy at Heathrow and across Central Europe. However being about 7000 ft in the air, I expect there was around a 10kt wind in some direction, but definitely not enough to cause a spiral like that when I took control.

Thanks for your response and the app suggestion, I’ll take a look!

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I hope this happened just once. Never seen an incident like this, but I get the picture. Also, did you notice any stall? I am not sure if 180kts could possibly spiral your aircraft without any winds. What do you think?

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Yeah this was just a one off thankfully. I’m no expert on this game but I’ve flown the a320 a lot and found it to be easy to control and never experienced any issues like this. Maybe if it was something more challenging like a q400 I could put it down to poor speed/weather management. The main reason I found this so weird was the lack of stall warning, it just plummeted to the ground for no real reason and at a relatively high speed with no upward pitch: just seems bizarre.

Could trim have anything to do with it? I might have set it by that point and possibly incorrectly but it was the same setting as on every other flight and I’ve never had problems like this with trim before.

Thanks again for your help

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Trim just helps the aircraft descend or ascend more than it usually does. I certainly do not think trim could cause it. But it does depends on how much trim you use. If you are using too much trim, there is a chance the plane could stall because of low speeds. But trim has nothing to do with the problem. It began when the NAV started to turn much earlier than expected, and the spiring too…

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When was the last time you calibrated your flight controls during that flight before it crashed?

It is possible that even though you may think your holding your phone the exact same position as when you were during takeoff it is very likely you were not. Maybe during takeoff you were lying on your couch and the next your sitting on a chair. Even though the phone seems to be at the same angle it may be slightly different. That is why I calibrate atleast 1 time before I take off NAV/APPR or else I may have that sudden uncontrollable dip/upward force as my calibration may think Im trying to push my yoke down/up.

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Also, make sure press the “heading” button right after takeoff. This way it would let your aircraft remain in one direction without making any sudden turns, if you feel like turning off the NAV button.

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what about the bank angle?

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Another topic full of useless responses 😞.

You stalled forcing yourself into a spin. Pulling back in a stall is only going to make it worse. You need to push forward during a stall to break it. Remember guys stalls can happen at any speed. Dirty configuration climbing through a relatively high altitude at a slow speed. It all adds up for a recipe for disaster.

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Hi,

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a stall as there were no winds at LGKF and we were descending at 180 kts, although I agree that stalling is common during take-off due to a bad speed/flaps/VS configuaration. There wasn’t even a stall warning and we didn’t pitch up at any point, just went straight in to a spiral. That was my main problem, pitching forward or pulling back didn’t make the slightest bit of difference.

Thanks for your reply

Why useless ? 🤨 isn’t it a bit rude people are just tryna help out I think every response given here by a person is helping

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Yeah I agree. This is quite a bizarre incident and I didn’t expect any concrete answers about anything, I just wondered if it had happened to anyone else or, from the details I gave, they could tell what had happened and if I need to do anything to stop it happening again.

Any opinion or comment is always helpful.

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I read that he must calibrate before turning off APPR or NAV but I do sometimes forget it going very pitch up and it have never causing a stall for me, but I am usally flying the 737, but those planes I think is pretty similar in size and I don’t notice that much difference, also those times I’ve been in 160kts so I don’t see how that would happen

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Ok lemme think, bizarre this happening to an IF Airbus as I feel they’re like flying cottons. But here are some possibilities, or combo of:

  1. Was the plane fully loaded when this happened?

  2. Chronologically: You said “NAV then HDG” and also “…as soon as I disconnected the NAV, the plane spiralled” so, were you able to disconnect that HDG too or was it too late (trying to disconnect HDG while going into a spiral). This explains the “no control” part, the plane still tries to head to where it wanted to - alas, was too late when you finally disconnected - you were closer to the ground and faster than VS -2000.

  3. But all that doesn’t explain the sudden spiral. My guess is that you weren’t on A/P ALT and subjected your aircraft with a sudden jolt. When you tried to correct this, nothing happened and panic comes in - the HDG was still activated. You were banking with VS -2000. At only 3 times the altitude, everything will feel like a mere instant on your way to earth - did you notice the VS shooting up much steeper than -2000?

Howsthat? :D I wish IF has a blackbox feature, because mysterious “sudden death” issues like these happened to me once - again, it got something to do with one of the A/P’s as well.

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Hi Brandon, good idea as that commonly happens to a lot of us, but how would you explain the “no stall” message? It wasn’t stalling, so it must be some form of induced nose diving. At least that’s what I am thinking tho… :)

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Where was the rudder?

You state you were 180kts at Flap 1 which is a good speed and flap selection but you also state you were in a turn.

In the real aircraft you would have your feet on the rudders to ascertain the amount of rudder the AP has applied before disconnecting the AP. As the secondary aerodynamic effect of yaw is roll it is common, even in big jets, to trim out roll with yaw.

If, at the point of AP disconnect you had too much or even too little rudder applied for the bank angle selected this will exacerbate the roll and cause a steep roll and dive.

Don’t forget that aircraft can spiral dive as well as spin, the prime difference being that a spiral dive does not require a stalled wing like the spin does.

Just a theory obviously. ;D

Edited to add :- IRL you need to match the AP inputs before you disconnect the AP if you want a smooth disconnect.

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Hi I do A320 shorthaul flights every day I also noticed that but I realized I have to set flaps on a lower altitude and and make slower my VS to about 1200 also make sure that youre speed levels the plane aswell so if you see the plane pitching up give a little.more thrust also lower flaps at around 4500 ft hope it helps happy landings😁

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Hi and thanks for your detailed response.

The plane was loaded with enough fuel for 4:15 flying time and we’d been flying for about 2:45 at this point. We had about 136 passengers and the cargo was set to the same part of the slider as the number of passengers. We were just over Minimum landing weight on take off so we would be well under by the time we reached Kefalonia.

Pretty much as soon as I disconnected the NAV the spiral started and the AP disconnected soon after. This didn’t help at all and I was unable to pull up (we were basically nose diving and travelling very fast) which is what makes me think it was a calibration issue and my attempts to pull up only made it worse.

The VS would have been something ridiculous around -15000 as we crashed very quickly after spiralling so it wasn’t a slow descent towards the sea. I’m pretty sure all was well with the A/P configuration as I often disconnect A/P to make tighter turns with a similar configuration and nothing has ever happened before.

I think some sort of black box feature would be incredible (especially on live) and it’s be a great way of improving skills and learning from frustrating incidents like this.

Thanks again for your comment!

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