**Update: 23/11/20 @ 15:38 UTC – Statement made by Southern Air parent company Atlas Air. Subsequent amendments, regarding a stall warning rather than a stall, made to article.**
On November 15th, a Southern Air Boeing 777-200 freighter performing a flight from New York JFK to Seoul Incheon experienced a stall warning while climbing out of JFK. This incident, which saw the aircraft suddenly lose speed and altitude, was recorded on audio as a hot microphone on the flight deck captured a pilot saying “Stall! Stall! Stall! Stall! Stall!” with warning alarms heard in the background.
A statement submitted by a company spokesperson is as follows:
“The aircraft did not stall and was always under positive control. A flight guidance event occurred during the climb, which triggered a proactive safety system alert. It was corrected and the aircraft continued on its planned route and landed safely.”
The Southern Air flight, headed from New York JFK to Seoul Incheon, was 9S-947 and operated by a Boeing 777-200 freighter. On November 15th at 14:27 local time, the aircraft departed JFK, climbing out of runway 22R to 5000 feet.
Given clearance by air traffic control (ATC) to climb to 11,000 feet, the aircraft continued its climb. However, as the pilot read back this clearance to ATC, the other pilot can be heard shouting “Stall! Stall! Stall! Stall! Stall!” in the background, with aircraft warning alarms beeping. Speaking to ATC, the Southern Air flight then responded with “Standby.”
In the short span of time, the aircraft’s speed over ground had decreased from about 273 knots to 256. At the same time, its altitude decreased from 5,150 feet to around 4,950 feet before stabilizing. The incident was recorded and shared online by VASAviation, shown here:
During this incident, the controller received several requests from other aircraft and just replied “Standby” to these requests. The controller asked flight 947 if they were ready to climb, and the crew again replied, “Standby.”
Approximately 90 seconds after the stall calls, the speed had recovered to 277 knots over ground and was accelerating. The crew then indicated that they were ready to climb again and ATC resumed normal service to all aircraft.
The aircraft continued its flight to Seoul, performing a safe landing about 14.5 hours later, landing just after 19:00 local time.
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For those new to the world of aviation, a stall is defined by SKYbrary as a “sudden reduction in the lift generated by an aerofoil when the critical angle of attack is reached or exceeded.” Stalls occur when there’s not enough lift being generated.
Many have speculated that this November 15th stall warning incident was a result of the aircraft being heavy, likely having a fairly full load of cargo as well as a full tank of fuel for its 14.5-hour flight to South Korea. Thus, with its heavy load, the aircraft may not have had sufficient speed to climb past 5,000 feet, triggering a warning from the aircraft’s safety system.
The Boeing 777-200 freighter is registered as N702GT and is just over eight years old. It has flown for Southern Air since June 2018 and was previously part of LATAM Cargo’s fleet. The aircraft still actually wears LATAM’s livery in a way, rather than the standard Southern Air white and yellow. This can be seen in the Twitter photograph below:
A Boeing 777F operated by #SouthernAir after landing in @fly2ohare following a flight from @LEJ_Airport
• Delivered to LAN in 2012 as N776LA
• Went to @LATAMAirlinesUS in 2016 as N776LA
• Delivered to Southern Air in 2018 as N702GT, still wearing LAN livery pic.twitter.com/L2hJRwGyVs
— GerardiAviationPhotography (@GerardiAviation) October 4, 2020
Southern Air is a division of global freight airline Atlas Air.
What do you think of this incident? Listening to the audio recording, how do you think ATC and the aircraft’s crew handled it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.