I was watching Seconds From Disaster about Alaska Airlines 261 (the one with the horizontal stabilizer issue) and at one point the copilot tells the pilot to "try the suitcase handles". Is that pilot slang for something or did I maybe hear it wrong? (Seconds From Disaster uses actual cockpit recordings for the recreations, so I don't think it's made up or anything.)

  • $\begingroup$ The issue was with the horizontal stabiliser, not the vertical. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    May 21 '19 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ Edited by changing “vertical” to “horizontal”. $\endgroup$ Dec 13 '20 at 12:37

From the NTSB report

"Suitcase handles" is a colloquial term for the longitudinal trim handles located on the center control pedestal. "Pickle switches" is a colloquial term for the trim switches located on the outboard side of each of the control wheels.

The MD-80 cockpit is shown at this page, with the trim handles on the left side of the console (item 9).

enter image description here

Under normal operation, the pilot will use the switches on the control column to change the trim. If there's a problem with the thumb switches, the handles on the console are available.


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