Surviving Virgin Galactic Pilot was Thrown from SpaceShipTwo - Update

Surviving Virgin Galactic Pilot was Thrown from SpaceShipTwo - Update

Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo 310x

NTSB says surviving pilot didn't know the movable tail had been activated.

Update: The NTSB has confirmed that Siebold did lose consciousness after being thrown from SpaceShipTwo, but not before freeing himself from his seat harness. Only after he was freed from his harness did his parachute activate.

Because Siebold wasn't wearing a pressurized flight suit, his window of consciousness at that altitude was extremely limited (due to the lack of oxygen at 50,000 feet).

The NTSB confirmed this bit of information, along with other data points, in a recent press release.

Original Story: Slowly but surely, details from the tragic Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo accident are starting to emerge, as the National Transportation Safety Board moves forward with its investigation.

The latest from the investigation, as Reuters reports, is that surviving pilot Peter Siebold was thrown from the spacecraft after SpaceShipTwo started to break up. Siebold then escaped from his seat before his parachute deployed.

Siebold, who was interviewed by the NTSB on Friday, November 7th, was thrown from SpaceShipTwo at an altitude of roughly 50,000 feet, near the top of the troposphere. It's unclear if Siebold was conscious during his descent, given the thin-to-no oxygen present at that altitude.

Along with confirming how Siebold survived the crash, the NTSB reports that deceased co-pilot Mike Alsbury activated the movable tail of SpaceShipTwo, and that Siebold was unaware of the activation during the flight. This lines up with reports that the tail had been activated at speeds below the Mach 1.4 where it is normally deployed. The tail is deployed to assist with SpaceShipTwo's descent back to Earth, help the craft slow down from its faster-than-sound travel.

The NTSB is examining data from Virgin Galactic's instrumentation, as well as recordings taken during the failed test flight, along with gathering testimony from Siebold.

Source: Reuters

Permalink

Eerily similar to how Bill Weaver survived a test flight of the SR-71 by being flung from it while it was breaking up. http://www.916-starfighter.de/SR-71_Waever.htm

Sounds more and more like pilot error caused the crash. This guy is one lucky bugga!

Crazy. I did a tour of the place and checked it out in the hanger in August. Amazing machine, but such small windows of error when you're working with such high speeds and precision. Can't imagine being ejected at that speed/height and being able to get out of the seat.

RicoADF:
Sounds more and more like pilot error caused the crash. This guy is one lucky bugga!

Its fundamental design flaw in a commercial aircraft. If Virgin Galactic want to fly fare paying passengers they should takle into account risk of up 12 million to 1. Quite simply the design should not allow the the feathers to deploy at too low speed.

Belaam:
Crazy. I did a tour of the place and checked it out in the hanger in August. Amazing machine, but such small windows of error when you're working with such high speeds and precision. Can't imagine being ejected at that speed/height and being able to get out of the seat.

100 of thousands of people crossed the Atlantic for 3 decades on Concord at speeds faster than space ship 2 was doing when the accident occurred.

albino boo:

Its fundamental design flaw in a commercial aircraft. If Virgin Galactic want to fly fare paying passengers they should takle into account risk of up 12 million to 1. Quite simply the design should not allow the the feathers to deploy at too low speed.

Agreed, even if the pilot did deploy it early the design shouldn't have allowed it to happen at all.

RicoADF:

albino boo:

Its fundamental design flaw in a commercial aircraft. If Virgin Galactic want to fly fare paying passengers they should takle into account risk of up 12 million to 1. Quite simply the design should not allow the the feathers to deploy at too low speed.

Agreed, even if the pilot did deploy it early the design shouldn't have allowed it to happen at all.

Wich baffles me more is why the pilot deployed the thing before it was suposed to be deployed?

I imagine they invested alot of training hours to teach the pilots all about the machine... why would he simply activate the movable tail like that?

Karadalis:

I imagine they invested alot of training hours to teach the pilots all about the machine... why would he simply activate the movable tail like that?

Could be as simple a thing as bumping the wrong switch with an errant elbow or trying to flick the one next to it and making a mistake.

I'm reminded of the scene in Apollo 13 where Swigert puts a 'NO' sticker over the Lunar Module jettison switch. That's just the sort of simple catastrophic screw-up I could see myself making in that sort of situation.

Could be as simple a thing as bumping the wrong switch with an errant elbow or trying to flick the one next to it and making a mistake.

The issue though is that with computers, sensors and such an accidental or even deliberate attempt to activate the wings at the wrong speed should have given an alarm and been automatically prevented. So if such a safety system is in place then you're looking at a system failure somewhere, if their is no such safety system them you are looking at incompetence of design and / or pilot.

And years in the future, when private space travel becomes a real thing, when it's all said and done, we will look back and see that nothing could have been achieved...without at least one virgin sacrifice.
Yes, I'm a horrible person, and I await my summary execution.

Laughing Man:

The issue though is that with computers, sensors and such an accidental or even deliberate attempt to activate the wings at the wrong speed should have given an alarm and been automatically prevented. So if such a safety system is in place then you're looking at a system failure somewhere, if their is no such safety system them you are looking at incompetence of design and / or pilot.

Well, the pilot is there for a reason.
You can only automate and regulate so much before it directly interferes with intentional action.

Also (unrelated question): Is your screen name a Shadowrun reference?
I have this odd sensation of Deja Vu right now.

Question that's only tangentially relevant to the topic at hand.

What is their end goal here? Are they trying to let common people go into space for the experience? Or is this supposed to be a faster method of travel?

And if it's the latter, how economically feasible is it?

I'd love to avoid another 14 hour trip to go to Japan, but if I have to pay 8 times the price to do it... I'd rather swim.

Edit:

A simple google search has disheartened me, revealing that it's just the experience... and for a quarter of a million dollars.

Definitely not something I'll ever do...

Oh wells... a part of me was really hoping this would somehow turn out to be a really economical way to travel the world quickly and cheaply.

My dreams live in the future... where I live in the present.

RicoADF:

albino boo:

Its fundamental design flaw in a commercial aircraft. If Virgin Galactic want to fly fare paying passengers they should takle into account risk of up 12 million to 1. Quite simply the design should not allow the the feathers to deploy at too low speed.

Agreed, even if the pilot did deploy it early the design shouldn't have allowed it to happen at all.

It wasn't deployed, which is kinda the problem. To raise the tail, you had to first unlock the feathering system, then move a lever to actually do it. The unlocking had happened to early, but the lever was never moved. This accident is a mix of co-pilot error and a fault in the plane

Britpoint:

Karadalis:

I imagine they invested alot of training hours to teach the pilots all about the machine... why would he simply activate the movable tail like that?

Could be as simple a thing as bumping the wrong switch with an errant elbow or trying to flick the one next to it and making a mistake.

I'm reminded of the scene in Apollo 13 where Swigert puts a 'NO' sticker over the Lunar Module jettison switch. That's just the sort of simple catastrophic screw-up I could see myself making in that sort of situation.

I agree with what you're saying, but in this case the lever was never moved. This has been confirmed through onboard footage and the wreckage.

albino boo:

100 of thousands of people crossed the Atlantic for 3 decades on Concord at speeds faster than space ship 2 was doing when the accident occurred.

did they do it OUTSIDE of an aircraft though?

Atmos Duality:

Well, the pilot is there for a reason.
You can only automate and regulate so much before it directly interferes with intentional action.

All the current offering of Airbus and Boeing are fly by wire. All pilot actions are through the avionics suite to reduce pilot error. Avionics performance is quantifiable and consistent, unlike humans. As I have previously stated in this thread modern commercial aircraft are built to the odds of 12 million to one. The system should be carrying mitigation to reduce the risk of accident for something as simple as lever being unlocked at the wrong time.

Strazdas:

albino boo:

100 of thousands of people crossed the Atlantic for 3 decades on Concord at speeds faster than space ship 2 was doing when the accident occurred.

did they do it OUTSIDE of an aircraft though?

I was pointing out that using 1960s technology and for 30 years passenger aircraft travelled faster than when this accident occurred. The margins of error are not small because it was a low speed accident.

albino boo:

All the current offering of Airbus and Boeing are fly by wire. All pilot actions are through the avionics suite to reduce pilot error. Avionics performance is quantifiable and consistent, unlike humans. As I have previously stated in this thread modern commercial aircraft are built to the odds of 12 million to one. The system should be carrying mitigation to reduce the risk of accident for something as simple as lever being unlocked at the wrong time.

If everything is that automated with that tiny margin of error, well, you make it sound like there shouldn't be a pilot at all.

Atmos Duality:

albino boo:

All the current offering of Airbus and Boeing are fly by wire. All pilot actions are through the avionics suite to reduce pilot error. Avionics performance is quantifiable and consistent, unlike humans. As I have previously stated in this thread modern commercial aircraft are built to the odds of 12 million to one. The system should be carrying mitigation to reduce the risk of accident for something as simple as lever being unlocked at the wrong time.

If everything is that automated with that tiny margin of error, well, you make it sound like there shouldn't be a pilot at all.

There is a reason why air travel is the safest method of long distance transport. Pilots still have functions, but the day to day business of flying the plane isn't one them. Commercial pilots job is dealing with weather, air traffic control and emergency events. Writing software that can deal with a double engine flame out after a bird strike is beyond the current capabilities. Even at odds of 12 million to one within in 15 years, if air travel continues to expand at its current rate, that will mean one fatal accident a month.

Well, the pilot is there for a reason.

We are actually at a stage in technology now where pilots on commercial aircraft are unneeded, perhaps maybe not on 'space flight' but the reason why aircraft have pilots is

a). It makes the passengers feel better, I am sure their are extensive surveys about the reasons behind this and if I cared enough I would go looking for them.
b). It is often acknowledged that when the sh*t does hit the fan it is far better to have a person in charge to sort it out than a machine, no doubt it's down to the fact that humans who are about to die, especially well trained ones, are more likely to try and push the limits of their knowledge of man and machine where as a computer doesn't care if it dies and will stick to it's predefined rules no matter what.

Also (unrelated question): Is your screen name a Shadowrun reference?

Dunno what Shadowrun is but my name is a Ghost in the shell reference.

I had a look at the press release and the key point is

NTSB:
The systems group continues to review available data for the vehicle's systems (flight controls, displays, environmental control, etc.). The group is also reviewing design data for the feather system components and the systems safety documentation.

albino boo:
100 of thousands of people crossed the Atlantic for 3 decades on Concord at speeds faster than space ship 2 was doing when the accident occurred.

Yes, but none of them changed the shape of the vehicle mid flight. And if it had, I would have been equally amazed were there survivors.

Belaam:

albino boo:
100 of thousands of people crossed the Atlantic for 3 decades on Concord at speeds faster than space ship 2 was doing when the accident occurred.

Yes, but none of them changed the shape of the vehicle mid flight. And if it had, I would have been equally amazed were there survivors.

Concords nose section moved down to allow the pilots to a view when taxing. However when in flight it did not move due to good design.

albino boo:

All the current offering of Airbus and Boeing are fly by wire. All pilot actions are through the avionics suite to reduce pilot error. Avionics performance is quantifiable and consistent, unlike humans. As I have previously stated in this thread modern commercial aircraft are built to the odds of 12 million to one. The system should be carrying mitigation to reduce the risk of accident for something as simple as lever being unlocked at the wrong time.

I think your being a little generous to pilots of modern jets, lets be frank the plane is basically flown by the computer and human only takes over during take off, landing and if something happens. And the first 2 is only because people prefer human control as they feel safer when in fact the computer can do a far better job.

Spelling error...

Devin Connors:
The NTSB has confirmed that Siebold did loss consciousness after being thrown from SpaceShipTwo, but not before freeing himself from his seat harness.

Should be "The NTSB has confirmed that Siebold did lose consciousness after being thrown from SpaceShipTwo, but not before freeing himself from his seat harness."

albino boo:

I was pointing out that using 1960s technology and for 30 years passenger aircraft travelled faster than when this accident occurred. The margins of error are not small because it was a low speed accident.

ah, i thought you were referring to the pilot that survived.

Atmos Duality:

If everything is that automated with that tiny margin of error, well, you make it sound like there shouldn't be a pilot at all.

we dont, really.
A computer can lift off, fly the plane and land on its own. it can do it more efficiently than a pilot. there are only two reasons to have a pilot on commercial plane:

1) Pilots land "Softer" than autopilot. this is important for passenger comfort (though personally i dont care i understand some people are twitchy when it comes to flying).

2) People feel more safe with a pilot, its a placebo effect.

Flying a plane is many times safer than driving a car, even including the increased radiation levels exposure (you are exposed to 30x the background radiation when on a flight due to being high where atmosphere stops less radiation from the sun). heck, according to math you are more likely to die driving 100 miles than flying across the atlantic.

Laughing Man:

Well, the pilot is there for a reason.

We are actually at a stage in technology now where pilots on commercial aircraft are unneeded, perhaps maybe not on 'space flight' but the reason why aircraft have pilots is

a). It makes the passengers feel better, I am sure their are extensive surveys about the reasons behind this and if I cared enough I would go looking for them.
b). It is often acknowledged that when the sh*t does hit the fan it is far better to have a person in charge to sort it out than a machine, no doubt it's down to the fact that humans who are about to die, especially well trained ones, are more likely to try and push the limits of their knowledge of man and machine where as a computer doesn't care if it dies and will stick to it's predefined rules no matter what.

It's precisely the "b" part that has made pilots a more integral part of flying than before. There used to be a philosophy in airplane design that the more you removed the pilot from actual piloting, the better. However, early on in that design it became obvious that pilots needed to be able to override the autopilot, during extreme situations where the program was getting faulty info or didn't know what to do in a given situation.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here