Awarded to the Captain, a member of a flight deck crew, or a cabin attendant whose action contributed outstandingly by the saving of his/her aircraft or passengers, or made a significant contribution to future air safety.
Captain Eric Gennotte
First Officer Steeve Michielsen
Flight Engineer Mario Rofail
On 22nd November 2003, a DHL A300 B4 had been airborne from Baghdad Airport for just over 3 minutes when the calm in the cockpit was shattered by the sound of a loud bang. At about 8,000ft an explosion was heard, followed by a cacophony of aural warnings and visual displays showing a master warning on all flight controls.
Unbeknown to the crew at that time, the aircraft had been struck by a missile. The Flight Engineer, Mario Rofail, called that the green and yellow hydraulic systems were lost, and as he started preparing for the double hydraulic loss emergency checklist procedure the Captain, Eric Gennotte, announced that he was having difficulty controlling the aircraft. The First Officer, Steeve Michielsen, tried unsuccessfully to assist the Captain to try and regain control. The F/E then announced that the third hydraulic system was lost as well.
At that point the crew realised that there was little likelihood that the flight controls would become functional again. There was no emergency checklist or procedure to help them recover from this scenario. The situation appeared hopeless and they were very much on their own.
The aircraft was without conventional pilot input. The stick and rudder were ineffective. The flight control surfaces deprived of their hydraulic muscle, were aligned with the airflow (hinge moment zero).
The configuration was frozen:
? Slats and flaps could not be extended
? Spoilers were no longer controllable
? The position of the horizontal stabiliser could not be adjusted. It was and continued to remain at the trim position for 215 Knots with climb thrust. (This setting was to pose particular challenges for the crew as they attempted to stabilise the aircraft for an approach descent profile)
A state of emergency was declared by Steeve to ATC. The crew was told that the left engine was on fire. Mario advised his fellow crew members that this was not possible since all engine indications and fire warning systems were normal. However, with no hydraulics and a fire visible from the left wing he knew the aircraft was seriously damaged.
The tension was extreme on the flight deck. The ?sense of disbelief? was felt by all the crew members.
Eric announced that they could control the pitch attitude by adjusting thrust. Then began a learning period during which Eric, Steeve and Mario, discovered how to control the pitch by modulating thrust. Initially the thrust lever movements were large and essentially symmetrical, and the aircraft thus continued a wide, unsteady, 360 degree turn to the left.
The crew found that they could effectively stop the climb by reducing thrust, which caused an initial airspeed decrease whilst the nose dropped, but then the airspeed started to increase.
They had to cope with this apparent paradox, due to the change in pitching moment that could not be corrected by the jammed horizontal stabiliser.
The initial climb at 215 knots was changed into a shallow controlled descent by reducing thrust, leading to an unavoidable speed increase: Between 10,000 and 5,000 feet, IAS varied between 270 and 290 knots.
At that time Eric ordered the extension of the landing gear by the emergency gravity extension procedure, even though the speed exceeded the maximum allowed for landing gear extension.
Mario successfully manually extended the gear. It made a lot of noise since the gear doors remained open. The extended gear provided additional drag, which helped stabilise the aircraft. This was the only means to bring the speed back towards 210 knots. The decision to extend the gear so early on proved to be a vital decision.
With the aircraft controllable in pitch around level flight and at a speed compatible with landing, Eric, supported by Steeve and Mario, set about learning to control the direction of flight.
Asymmetric handling of the throttles could control bank. When the left engine alone was accelerated, the wings returned to the horizontal, similarly when the right engine only was retarded the same levelling effect could be achieved.
This was a very difficult procedure to perform, especially when trying simultaneously to maintain horizontal flight and follow a heading:
? The response to thrust change