From what I'm reading, this was to be the second leg flown with this load on board. They were on a fuel stop at Bagram so one would have to assume the new fuel load weight and balance was incorrectly calculated to support the theory that it was out of cg range before this takeoff--unlikely IMO.BTW...another thought comes to mind after Jay mentioned the checks and rechecks of the load securing devices. It's also possible that the load did not shift, but the load calcs were done incorrectly, whether it was input error, mislabeled load weights on a vehicle, or metric-english conversion errors. I still favor the load shift theory though... if the load was balanced wrong in the first place, it would be a fine line between the aft CG limit and the point at which the plane would have tipped back on its tail while still on the ground.
Does anyone know what that line is? Can a 747 be unbalanced to the point that it would exhibit this much loss of control in the air but not tailsit on the ground?
I agree...it gathered speed normally and just as they pulled the stick at the rotation they must have heard and felt that something ain't right and possibly tried to push all they had and still the plane just kept going almost vertically up. What ever moved may have also shifted the CG also to the right...there was one incident in Russia where old Tupolev had no aileron control nor elevator..and they flew and landed it by using only throttle and rudder ( also on video ).Seems it is common practice to use a tail stand during loading/unloading to prevent a possible tailsit but I doubt it would be anywhere near a 'tailsit' cg even with the cg well past the aft flight limit. A grossly aft cg would have become apparent as soon as they pushed up the power. A load shift during rotation/liftoff seems much more likely, IMO.
Seems it is common practice to use a tail stand during loading/unloading to prevent a possible tailsit but I doubt it would be anywhere near a 'tailsit' cg even with the cg well past the aft flight limit. A grossly aft cg would have become apparent as soon as they pushed up the power. A load shift during rotation/liftoff seems much more likely, IMO.
20 seconds is a lifetime in that situation...in usual flying that is enough but in an emergency like this it should have been oprated in a second or two. Still apparently unflyable ?I used to work as a 747 mechanic for Southern Air, another airline that charters military flights in and out of places like Afghanistan. In fact, my first fear when I heard a cargo 747 crashed in Afghanistan was that it might be one from my former employer, though it's tragic regardless of who it belongs to.
The aft cargo shift definitely seems to be the most likely cause. In a cargo 747, the vehicles would be tied down to "cookie sheets", large metal pallets. The pallets then sit on the roller trays and are moved in to place with power drive units (PDUs), then locked in place with end locks that flip up and grab the edge of the pallet. So, either the pallet came loose from the locks, or the the load came off the pallet. Unfortunately, the loadmaster was killed in the crash, but the investigation will undoubtedly find the cause.
Regardless, there's nothing the pilot could have done. In the video, you can hear the engines roaring at full power, and it looks to me like he's applying full down elevator. The stabilizer trim takes about 20 seconds to go from full up to full down, and full nose down is only -1.5 past neutral, so it's definitely too little and too late to counter a massive CG shift.
My thoughts are with the families of the deceased. If not for the ever changing winds of fortune, it might have been me or someone I know on that flight.