Interview: Bill Trinka, Dispatcher





Interview: Bill Trinka, Dispatcher

Date: October 26, 2009

Time : 1323L

Location: Northwest Airlines Training Center

Represented by Murray Auger, Director of Dispatch Service, Northwest Airlines  

During the interview, Mr. Trinka stated the following:  

His full name is William J. Trinka. He started with Republic Airlines on November 26, 1979 where he was an assistant dispatcher for six months before becoming a full time dispatcher. He stated that he was the dispatcher of NW188.  

He was first alerted to a problem with NW188 when a fellow dispatcher advised him that a crew was relaying a “courtesy notification” to have NW188 come up on an ATC frequency and the fellow dispatcher had sent the NW188 crew an ACARS message. He checked his flight explorer display screen and noticed NW188 was approximately 30 miles southwest of Sioux Falls, SD. On his display screen, the flight appeared to be on course and at FL370. Sioux Falls was about 120 miles and 40 minutes flying time to MSP, and at that altitude everything seemed normal to him. He did not know how the fellow dispatcher came to know that NW188 needed to be contacted. He also stated that there is no way to contact the aircraft via voice frequency unless the aircraft was actually monitoring that frequency, as would be required if the ACARS was on MEL.  

About 10 minutes later, he received a teletype from another assistant dispatcher on duty, who had sent another ACARS request to NW188 to come up on a frequency. When he looked at the message, he noticed on the flight display that NW 188 was between Redwood Falls and Sketr intersection. Sketr was approximately 50 miles from MSP. He stated that most all the flights he was in control of arrived over the Sketr intersection, and he expected NW188 to hold at the Sketr intersection, and that most flights were already taking a 15-20 minutes hold before moving on to MSP. He noticed that 188 had flown past Sketr at FL370 and was flying directly to MSP. At that time he became concerned and walked over to his supervisor’s [Dave Francisco] desk and asked them if they had any additional information.  

He was told that they had received a call from MSP center that the flight was not talking to anybody. He believed that his supervisor had received “several” calls from MSP center about NW188. He did not know how far back the messages had been received, but that there had been “numerous calls” regarding NW188. He had observed 188 overfly MSP at FL370, and was still very concerned about 188 and began second-guessing ATC and expected them to ask for souls onboard and fuel to exhaustion, which he had begun to research. He returned to his supervisor’s desk and provided this information. ATC never asked for this information.

As he relayed this information, there was a Delta security coordinator on the line with the Domestic Event Network (DEN), who was communicating with ATC facilities. The security coordinator then got off the line, and said he had heard that NW188 was now in contact with ATC. He also advised that ATC was planning on issuing several turns to NW188 during the descent back to MSP via the Gopher arrival. They did not tell him why.


His supervisor sent a text page to the director of dispatch Murray Auger but did not get a reply. . He advised Dave Francisco that he would try and give Murray Auger a phone call, went back to his desk, and asked Daunte MacLachlan, who was giving him a competency check, to query the NW188 aircraft computer. This query was a message sent to the aircraft and a fuel on board (FOB) report would automatically be sent to the dispatch desk. He stated he believed the fuel came back as 10,600-11,200 pounds of fuel. Mr. Trinka then contacted his supervisor with this information. Mr. Trinka stated he was getting a competence check during this event. When the flight was over Gopher, he again queried the aircraft for fuel onboard, which was then approximately 8,600 pounds. He then contacted MSP ATC traffic management [Scott Schillerud] in the tower and asked him to ask the controllers to protect NW188 from any ATC initiated go-arounds.  

Regarding his request to the ATC tower to limit any ATC initiated go-arounds for NW188, he stated his desire was to let ATC know that this particular aircraft would need priority on arrival. He stated that during holding into MSP, he would be prompted to fuel “query” the aircraft, but the procedure was not normal.  

While the NW188 flight was between Gopher and Farmington VOR, which was basically a long downwind for landing,, Mr. Trinka received a call from one of his NW sector managers, who said he had received a phone call from the NW Flight Operations Chief Pilots office who asked him to send an ACARS message to the crew of NW188 to advise the crew to remain in the cockpit after they blocked into the gate, and to not send the message until the aircraft was on the ground. Once he received an “on” time, he sent the message. He did not receive a reply from the aircraft.  

After the aircraft blocked in, he sent a Dispatch Incident/Diversionary Report, which was distributed to management.  Calls from ATC regarding a NORDO are routed to the Chief dispatcher or the ATC Coordinator. Chief dispatchers support regular dispatchers, and Mr. Trinka stated they sometimes rotate between positions. There was one domestic chief dispatcher on the NW side. There was no set procedure about who speaks to who when a call comes in from ATC, so they route it through the Chief dispatcher who will then route it to the aircraft dispatcher. Messages between dispatcher desks on done by text.  

He estimated that 6 or 7 messages were sent to the flight. He stated that there is no way for a dispatcher to know if an ACARS message was received by the crew, and they use ARINC (service provider) to relay these messages. All messages are assumed to be received unless they are notified by ARINC. Messages are sent via a data frequency automatically set on the number 3 radio. The weight and balance was sent to the aircraft separately, not from dispatch, and would print out automatically. The company was looking into getting ACARS text messages to print out automatically. Mr. Trinka stated that NW has its own designated radio frequency around the country, and flights can call dispatch directly from the aircraft, but only on that frequency and not on 121.50.

Mr. Trinka stated that he believed other dispatchers were trying to relay messages to NW188 through the aircraft they were working, but there was no formalized procedure. All company dispatchers were located in Atlanta and were centrally located on the same floor with the Chief dispatchers and ATC coordinators. Mr. Trinka stated that there were about 10 domestic NW dispatchers on duty that day, and that he was working 26-28 flights that day, and there were approximately 10-15 flights that were airborne at the time of the event He said dispatchers are set up to cover specific geographic regions. Mr. Trinka stated that there was one MEL on the aircraft regarding a lavatory door, and that there were no significant route NOTAMS for the flight. The first time he learned that NW188 was NORDO was when he was about 40 minutes from MSP.  

There are no formal procedures in the dispatch manual regarding the line of communications to the dispatcher on record when a flight is NORDO. Mr. Trinka stated that he is required to jumpseat yearly on a Northwest flight, and has seen the ACARS messages received in flight.  

Mr. Trinka stated that the merger transition for dispatch from MSP to ATL went “smoothly”. He also stated that dispatchers, airport ops (ACS) , maintenance control, crew scheduling, operations planners, and centralized load control (CLC) are authorized to send ACARS messages in flight.  

He stated that he thought there was possibly a way to send a weight and balance message directly by inserting an “indicator” on the weight and balance and that would sound a “ding”, but he was not sure and stated that the company was checking on it. When asked what other information was available for the “query” call to the aircraft, the stated FOB, position, flight level, altitude, holding information. He was asked about SELCAL, and stated that when the flight had overflown MSP, he asked the chief dispatcher to do a SELCAL on the flight. When asked about the SELCAL frequencies, he tried 131.9 or 131.7, but wasn’t sure, and believed it was through the company network.  

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