About a month ago, i recently flew from Philadelphia intl to tampa intl airport. The plane was a 737-400. We took off normally and then 5 min in, the pilot for some reason throttled back far as to the point in which the cabin was quiet. We then started to climb and you could feel the vertical airspeed was not high enough and sure enough(although it was not a complete stall),we climbed, didn’t have enough speed, and dropped altitude all the while the engines are still on low. Then after leveling the nose, the pilot finally increased his speed to FULL power, and we felt ourselves lurch back and climb. The flight went smoothly until descent when the pilot angled the nose down and increased the plane speed to 500mph on descent (checked after landing on flight logs). I have never in my entire life ever experienced something like this. I have flown to South Africa, Europe, tropics etc. I have flown on flights with turbulence and once, on a 747, the emergency exit door would not close fully so for 15 hours, there was a squeaking sound. But never, have I experienced something like this before. These annoying Spanish people behind us, talking and yelling, went silent after we (quote on quote) stalled. Can someone please respond to this and let me know if anyone has experienced this before on a 737, commercial flight to Tampa or anywhere. I am now a nervous wreck to fly.
In the cabin, your sensation of motion is amplified by your lack of overall visibility, and reference to the pilots input in the cockpit. In other words, your body attempts to compensate what it can’t see by translating any movement, even the small stuff, by tricking you into thinking you’re moving 20 feet up and down, when you’re not moving any more than six feet.
It sounds like a pretty normal climbout from takeoff, otherwise. Most flights we throttle back after takeoff to conserve fuel and keep the airspeed below 250 knots while still climbing up to 10,000 ft MSL.
In regards to the decent, is it possible you were reading the airspeed , rather than the groundspeed data? 500 mph sounds like a speed you would reach while flying into a headwind.
Do you have the link to the flight here on FA?
It sounds like ATC issued a last second level off clearance but at a normal rate of climb you went through the new altitude a bit, the crew naturally reduced power and descended. A few seconds later a climb clearance was re-issued, the change would seem abrupt.
500 mph, was that on the airshow or here on FA? In either case that is groundspeed and right in the middle of the ballpark for a normal descent. No way you are going to see 500 mph indicated airspeed, 300 knots is fairly normal (about 345 mph).
Also, it’s possible the pilots were following a noise abatement procedure, which is pretty common for airports in densely populated urban areas. Consideration is taken to get the aircraft up to a safe altitude, then throttle back the engines, decrease the pitch, and bank the aircraft to a heading away from or around the city, neighborhood, etc. Once out of the NA area, the pilots will increase the thrust and pitch of the aircraft back to a normal climbout.
Ok to clarify everything, I would say that the “stall” occurred after 10,000 feet and after electronics were allowed. 5 min is probably to early. I would say 5 to 15 min. In addition, when I checked flight aware logs after the flight. It showed 500mph and the rate of descent down for 10 min. The flight was on Jan 18, 2013. I am saying, it is the most abnormal flight I have ever been on. I have even flown to Tampa many times with nothing like this. It can not be noise abatement, because out of Philly, that is rare and we were well above 3,000 feet when this happened. I am really not sure on this one. I cant remember, but if you could check the flight log for the flight, you might be able to see that 10 or 15 min, we climb, loose altitude and then climb again. Again, very unusual. I have been on flights were throttle back is necessary on take offs and I know what abrupt climbs feel like i.e. thunderstorm take-off. But this is most peculiar. Anything else to help figure out this predicament. I am clueless as I am a frequent flyer.
I doubt it was even close to a stall. Most likely an ATC fubar. it’s happened to me more then I can count.
Here’s a similar experience that also involves a steep descent into Tampa.
Back in the late 90’s I was on an AA 727-200 from DFW to MIA. The original flight plan was to stay over land and overfly PNS, TLH, MCO and then into MIA. But about 15 minutes after departure some storms strengthened and the pilot u-turned us WAY to the west (over Abilene) and then down to Corpus Christi before heading over the Gulf to Miami. This added about 1:10 to our in-flight time. All was fine until we were within sight of the Florida coastline and the pilot declared a fuel emergency. He diverted us to Tampa. It was the steepest descent I have ever experienced and it was a rough and very fast landing. The plane was shuddering for about half of the descent - not sure what that was about. When we landed, they used a tug to get us off the runway and to the gate.
I have flown 1.5 million miles with AA alone, and some additional amount on other airlines. And we all thought we would be swimming to shore on this flight, if it didn’t come apart in the air.
Re: AA flight sounds like you almost did a Gimli Glider impersonation.
Re: the US 737… I’ve logged 900 flights in the past 11 years on US 737s (1700 total segments) and that pause/throttle back on those birds is always very noticeable. Like porter and the other pilots have commented it was probably some sudden ATC change/clearance.
Thanks for the clarification. There have been times when we’ve been told to climb/descend and maintain x-thousand feet, and before you know it, ATC tells us to expedite our climb/descent, or make a temporary altitude adjustment. Depending on how many feet we are from our assigned target altitude determines how quick we need to hit that mark. Of course, it is possible that the pilot was slightly over zealous in reaching both his cruise and descent altitudes that flight, and got harrassed by ATC to get it together Since I fall into the pilot column employment-wise, I’ll say it was an ATC-related snafu and your flight crew was trying to acquiesce to ATC’s demands.
Or, the pilot blew through his assigned altitude and was told to “immediately” get to where he needed to be.
Very, very possible.
possible but in the day and age of RVSM equipment unlikely without a failure of the altitude pre-select.
Not likely as Porterjet says without a few alerts going off, but possible if V/S select was dramatically changed while A/T was reducing - but that in itself would trigger an alarm. If this incident did not occur during manual control of the flight systems, then it seems like it occurred during manual/auto transfer. There are a handful of sequences that would elicit a pitch-over/back sensation to someone on board the flight - did you have that roller-coaster drop feeling in your stomach? I was also thinking TCAS scenario. ATC might have been trying to manage an airspace proximity issue.
No problem, and thanks again for the responses. I really appreciate it. Yes, I did feel quite a drop after ascending up. I do agree with an error during a possible switch over and possible atc issue. However, when we did ascend up with not enough vertical speed, the pilot did not do anything (i.e put nose down). In addition, during descent, there were no thunderstorms in the area, just some showers and low clouds. On descent, you could actually here winds whipping by the aircraft. As I previously stated, I have flown so many times, I know what descent, cruising, takeoff etc feels like. I am just stating, it was abnormal to a freqeunt flyer. Now I may be wrong, maybe pilots needed to make up time or something like that. There was no emergency and landing was smoothe. It is just peculiar to me that the pilot made abrupt changes and then did “nothing”. When we ascended up, and fell, the pilot did not"scramble" to pitch the nose back up and the engines did not go back to full power for another 30 sec to 1 min. You guys are probably correct as some of you are pilots, even more frequent flyers than me etc. But, I am still not convinced this was “pilot, atc, transfer error.”
No two flights are ever the same in my book… even if it’s the 20th time in a 12 month period you’re flying from the same point A to the same point B.
For a jet aircraft like that to stall it would lose about 6000 feet of alt before recovering. the maneuver would be far different then anything you as a pax would’ve ever encountered.
I promise you it wasn’t a stall
probably nothing more than spoilers up to expedite descent … back in 1975 I was en route IND-BAL on an Allegheny BAC 1-11 that suffered a cracked windshield … I noticed the vibrations; couldn’t see too well out the window from an aisle seat near the front of the jet, but my seatmate confirmed the boards were up … a couple seconds later we heard the power pulled back and the captain’s announcement that we would be making an emergency landing in PIT