ALPA Presents First Officer Daniel Wright with Superior Airmanship Award

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Pilots Recognized for Safely Overcoming Tire Failure and Gear Malfunction during Takeoff

WASHINGTON—The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) will recognize Delta Air Lines First Officer Daniel Wright for his role in successfully handling a potentially catastrophic flight emergency at Madrid, Spain, last December. He will receive the Superior Airmanship Award at ALPA’s 60th Air Safety Forum, to be held August 4–7 in Washington, D.C.

Providing the highest level of safety for our passengers is our first priority as professional Delta and ALPA pilots,” said Capt. Michael Donatelli, chairman of the Delta Air Lines pilot group’s Master Executive Council (MEC). “F/O Daniel Wright has demonstrated superior airmanship as part of a tremendous team effort to react appropriately and successfully in a time-critical emergency. The Delta MEC recognizes and thanks him for his commitment to the safety of our passengers.”

On the morning of Dec. 5, 2013, Delta Air Lines Flight 415, Boeing 767 service from Madrid to New York, suffered a violent main landing gear tire blowout during takeoff. The flight crew heard a loud bang as the tire exploded, followed by continuous loud noise and heavy vibration throughout the airplane. The vibration was severe enough to cause several passenger oxygen masks and ceiling panels to drop in the cabin. On board were 200 passengers, eight flight attendants, and three pilots.

As the heavy widebody aircraft climbed away from the runway, the pilots tried unsuccessfully to raise the landing gear. Cockpit warning lights showed that the tire explosion—which blew a hole through the right wing—had ruptured lines in two of the airplane’s three hydraulic systems through which the pilots operate the flight controls, wheel brakes, nosewheel steering, and other aircraft systems.

F/O Wright, as the international relief pilot for this long transoceanic flight, was in the cockpit jumpseat. The pilots declared an emergency to Madrid air traffic control. While F/O Kenneth Wasson continued to fly the damaged airplane, F/O Wright and Capt. Edward Bird quickly performed the appropriate procedures to deal with the dual hydraulic system failure.

F/O Wasson and Capt. Bird prepared for an overweight landing back at Madrid. They would have to land with no reverse thrust available from the right engine and only limited braking ability. Meanwhile, F/O Wright communicated with the flight attendants, Delta’s Madrid Station Operations, and the passengers, widening the team of available assets and keeping all parties informed.

F/O Wasson flew a normal approach and landing, but at a higher speed of 182 knots (210 miles per hour), due to the airplane’s greater weight, and landed in the touchdown zone, on speed, on the centerline.

Using full manual braking and left thrust reverse, the pilots decelerated the overweight B-767 until reaching the last taxiway, where the emergency brake pressure finally gave out. With no brakes and no steering, the airplane veered to the left and stopped just off a taxiway.

Though the airplane required extensive repairs, none of the passengers or crew members were injured.

“F/O Wright has very clearly demonstrated superior airmanship,” said ALPA president Capt. Lee Moak. “Keeping all of the parties—including the passengers—briefed, on task, and informed contributed to the safe outcome of the flight. His actions are the embodiment of the superior airmanship that this award seeks to celebrate.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 51,000 pilots at 31 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at or follow us on Twitter .

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