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Many years ago I listened to an ATC tape of an aviation incident involving a commercial aircraft that had some type of control loss, I think in Chicago. After several attempts to set up for an approach, the aircraft landed safely. Despite extensive searching I haven't been able to identify the incident. Can anyone help?

Here's what I remember about the incident.

  • I am not thinking of United 232.
  • The aircraft had some kind of control problem - I don't remember exactly what the nature of the problem was (hydraulic / flight control issues).
  • It was a commercial aircraft.
  • It happened at least 10 years ago and possibly more.
  • I believe, but am not positive, that the incident happened in Chicago and the aircraft landed either at O'Hare (KORD) or Midway (KMDW).
  • A video is/was available that included ATC conversation with the aircraft. The video also showed a radar replay/simulation.
  • The aircraft makes several attempts to set up for an approach, circling around a few times.
  • The controller had to assist the pilot with establishing and maintaining the glide path, and at some point someone makes a comment about flying like the space shuttle.
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    $\begingroup$ Didn't find anything on ASN that seemed to match either MDW or ORD from 10 to 30 years ago. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Aug 15, 2018 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ American 96 kinda fits. There's a simulation of it on Youtube. They landed in Detroit, tho, and they didn't have to circle multiple times. $\endgroup$
    – Machavity
    Aug 15, 2018 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Machavity Good suggestion, but no I don't think that's the one. I think the video I saw was a genuine FAA or NTSB radar replay that also included the ATC audio. It may have included the ATC position's coordination channels too but my memory is fuzzy in that. The best clue I have is the Space Shuttle comment but I can't find it in any transcripts so far. $\endgroup$
    – TypeIA
    Aug 15, 2018 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe TWA 841 from 1979? As with AA96, though, they landed in Detroit, but, according to the NTSB report, they did circle above the airport at least once... $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Aug 15, 2018 at 23:41
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    $\begingroup$ I am afraid you may never find it - there is simply too much information to search for. It is like trying to find a car crash after 10 years. Unless you remember some very specific details, there are simply too many candidates. $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    Aug 16, 2018 at 4:04

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After almost 5 years of searching for the answer, I think you could be refering to American Eagle 230 at Chicago O'Hare, which happend on december 27, 2000. The aircraft was an Embraer 135.

I could not find the video, but here is evidence it once existed.

The Wayback Machine does seems to have a copy of it, but since it is an .exe executable in a zip file, I am not touching it even with a long stick.

The aircraft was pitching up steeply due to trim problems, and to get the aircraft to descent, the pilot used steep banks ('50 or 60 degrees'). They also executed a 360° turn to get lower for landing. I could see how this may have felt analogous to the Space Shuttle, which involves flying S-turns and then a 270° turn to align with the runway.

The NTSB report with Incident Number CHI01IA055 says:

The captain said that during takeoff from O'Hare International Airport (ORD) the airplane accelerated normally, rotated, and "jumped into the air". At 800 feet agl, the captain called for the climb checklist. It was about this time that the captain noticed that he could not trim nose down. The captain had the first officer check his trim switch and the backup system. They did not respond. The captain elected to bring the airplane back to ORD. The captain said that both he and the first officer had their control yokes pushed forward to the stop and were still climbing. The captain said he was finally able to stop the climb and level the airplane at approximately 8,000 feet. The captain said they declared an emergency and referred to the Pitch Trim 1 and 2 Failure checklists. The checklist directed they lower flaps to 9 degrees. "When we brought in the flaps, the aircraft pitched way nose high. We were out of control." The captain regained control of the airplane and had the first officer retract the flaps. The captain said they lowered the landing gear. It improved the airplane's stability slightly. They pulled and reset the trim circuit breakers twice. These actions did nothing. The captain said he lined up for an approach to runway 9R. The captain determined he was too high to land, so he executed a 360-degree descending turn. On completion of the turn, the captain said they needed to slow down so they deployed the spoilers. The captain said the airplane abruptly pitched way up. The captain said he and the first officer pushed both yokes forward. The captain advanced the throttles, and retracted the spoilers. "That second, I banked hard left, 50 to 60 degrees as I recall, and chopped the power. It took all our abilities to get the nose down." After they got the airplane back under control, the captain said approach control informed them that runway 4R was straight ahead. The captain elected to land on runway 4R. The captain said he left the airplane configured as it was (landing gear down, flaps and spoilers retracted) and flew a long shallow approach. "I said to myself, God please let me land this airplane. Over the runway, I chopped the power and let it settle on the runway." A postincident examination of the airplane's spoiler control unit revealed that when the spoilers were given the command to retract, the unit was not sending an input to the horizontal stab control unit (HSCU) to put in 1 unit of nose down stabilizer trim. Examinations of the trim system components and the other airplane systems revealed no anomalies. Following the incident, the airplane's manufacturer revealed that the horizontal stab actuator was determined to be inadequate to move the horizontal stabilizer in all flight conditions. "The incidents are most likely caused when the flight crew fails to trim the airplane after takeoff before reaching a certain airspeed where the air loads on the stabilizer may overpower the trim actuator, resulting in the horizontal stabilizer not responding to the pitch trim command from the flight crew." The manufacturer issued an alert service bulletin mandating the installation of a cockpit placard and revisions to the airplane flight manual establishing a maximum speed of 160 knots to pitch-trim after takeoff. The FAA issued an emergency AD mandating the installation of the cockpit placard and revisions to the airplane flight manual. The FAA has also tasked the manufacturer to make design changes that will enable the trim actuator to handle increased load limits. The FAA has also mandated changes that will provide improved pitch trim failure indications and ergonomic improvements of the yoke trim switches.

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    $\begingroup$ That could well be it: all the pieces fit. Wise choice not to touch the .exe. Let me research it a bit and I'll accept the answer. How did you dig this up, out of curiosity? Thanks in any case! (BTW it seems to be EGF230, not 130?) $\endgroup$
    – TypeIA
    Jul 6, 2023 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ @TypeIA I was looking at ATC related questions that weren't answered and yours popped up. Since loss of control incidents are of some interest to me (I am working on 4D trajectory based air traffic control of unmanned aircraft, and looking for cases where aircraft may suddenly need to deviate from their deconlicted routing). Combining the two, I justified putting a bit of time into it and I found this paper from NASA. It includes a list of all LOC accidents and incidents between 1996 and 2010. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Jul 6, 2023 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ I searched the table for KORD and found the flight. A bit of googling did the rest. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Jul 6, 2023 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ I can confirm now this is what I was thinking of. Well done! $\endgroup$
    – TypeIA
    Jul 6, 2023 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ @TypeIA Thank you for that bonus, you didn't have to do that, I appreciate it. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Jul 14, 2023 at 13:18

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