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Landings: Reviews: The Black Box - The Anatomy of a Crash

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By: Eduardo Valenciana
E-mail Address: domang@gte.net

www.geocities.com/tresbros/blackbox.html

Flight Attendants are listed crewmembers on all manifests in the airline industry worldwide. The term "crew member" is deceptive for aviation experts hold little regard in the belief that an F/A has the ability to comprehend the complex technical information that a cockpit crewmember must have to navigate the aircraft safely. More so, in the minds of the aviation industry, a F/A's maximum ability to aid in the determination of a particular cause in airline crashes is limited to that of an observer. F/A crewmembers are expected to relate information valuable to the investigating experts who then can decipher such information to help in the final determination. That is till now.

Twenty one years after the experts walked away from Benito Juarez Airport in Mexico City, accepting the final cause of the crash of Western Airlines DC-10, Flight 2605, under the command of Captain Charles Gilbert Sr., as "Error de Piloto," we will examine the truth. As the surviving flight Attendant, I would like to set the record straight once and for all. Why would the F/A of 2605 be qualified to challenge the expert's decision? First, I was a witness to the events that unfolded during and after the flight. Second, I have spent the last twenty years educating myself in understanding the technical problems involved in final determination. Third, I was raised on the streets in the barrio in East Los Angeles. The "skills" I learned there in surviving proved to be the best tool in allowing me to complete such a journey alive and in one piece. Lastly, such "skills" allowed me to obtain the documents and files, including the CVR recording from 2605 that will back up my assessments. Eliminating the belief that it's a captain's ship and here lies the final blame, let us view all the facts. In my mind the cause should be "break down of the airline system and it's back ups."

FINAL REPORT:
The investigation and final report on the incident was handled by La oficina de el secraterio general de espacio areo mexicano. The report, forced upon and accepted by the NTSB and Western Airlines is in shambles and insulting to the intelligence of educated people. The NTSB's contribution was to simply to loosely translate the sparse document and accept it. One example of the Mexican agency's inept documentation is in referring to one flight attendant who perished as being alive and another who survivrd as being a casualty.

THE COCKPIT CREW & FELLOW PILOTS:
The flight was under the command of Captain Gilbert, F/O Ernest Riechel and S/O Daniel Walsh, all respected aviators. Captain Gilbert was a no nonsense Captain and Safety Pilot with thirty years invested in the company. On a personal note, First officer Ernest Riechel was in the mist of a ugly divorce. On the days leading up to the incident, Riechel had lost 28 pounds, his uniform no longer fit him and he had started the monthg's schedule by arriving to work without his uniform coat and cap. Besides other petty differences, arriving at work not in uniform offended Capatian Gilbert. In the early part of the month, Captain Gilbert officially "wrote up" F./O Riechel. This incident created a atmosphere of heinous hostility in the cockpit. Such hostilities were obvious to fellow pilots who revealed to me that these two individuals should not have been in the cockpit together, but were reluctant to personally get involved because of the "silent code" of pilots. F/O officer Riechel also related to me during the flight of 2605 that he had not slept for 40 hours prior.

SUPERVISING CHECK PILOT:
The day before the crash, in regards to concerns of some pilots and Captain Gilbert's write up, a Supervising Pilot of the company briefly spoke with Gilbert and Richel separately to gauge the situation. Reluctant to express their true feelings for fear of possibly embarrassing themselves, the pilots made light of the "misunderstandings." In what amounted to nothing more than one good old boy talking to another, the supervising pilot dropped the issue. Unfortunately, the issue was bigger than anyone realized. During the flight, I entered the cockpit of 2605 and was witness to a heated verbal lashing of Riechel by Captain Gilbert.

MEXICAN AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL:
During the flight, Mexican Air Traffic Control can be heard on the CVR recording, advising 2605 to expect a landing on Runway 23-Left, the only runway equipped with NIS capabilities. This statement was removed from the final Mexican report.

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