A US reviewer initially lost us a lot of sales for our second edition taking offence at our piece on how a fabulously expensive US warship designed to fight World War III found itself larking around with Iranian gunboats and in the process shot down an Iranian airliner on a scheduled flight. (The loss of the Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was just possibly a consequence of this.)
Interestingly, it was not so much the captain’s decision to fire that was the problem, but the circumstances, in that he was at the time chasing Iranian speedboats (mini-gunboats) with a billion dollar ship to claim combat experience when he shouldn’t have been.
In fact, our account was accurate, as Australia’s “60 Minutes” TV program confirmed.
The original all-in-one second edition of Air Crashes and Miracle Landings has a detailed account (See extract). [Note: Large print edition does not have detailed accounts of military actions.]
In early comments on the Boeing 737 MAX disasters Donald Trump tweeted that airliners were becoming too complicated (Click here).
The problem with that is that the 737 MAX in many respects is not a modern airliner. It is based on design work done in the 1960s and is not a fly-by-wire aircraft with an integrated control system.
The article to which we supply the “Click Here” link explains this.
There have been a number of fiery evacuations with passengers bringing their their hand luggage with each time everyone getting out, though sometimes injured.
In the Air France overrun at Montreal it was touch an go with one passenger blocking an aisle as he unpacked his bag. Passengers on the British Airways 777 that caught fire at Las Vegas had large bags, but fortunately the aircraft had only been half full.
The Sukhoi Superjet Crash in Moscow (Click Here) is an example of how dangerous taking your luggage can be for others. Perhaps part of the problem is that people exist in a bubble–say at the front of the aircraft in relative safety unaware of the severity the fire at the back or of the possibility that an explosion may engulf the whole aircraft in seconds.
There have been many suggestions regarding ways to stop people collecting their luggage including the locking of the overhead bins, though this would have to be automatic and have some facility to deal with a fire in the bin, say caused by a lithium battery. Ensuring passengers have essential items such as medication in a mini-bag would help. Confiscation of luggage taken in an evacuation might be a help but difficult to put into practice world-wide. Making passengers criminally liable for deaths or injuries would be difficult to prove in court.
Here is the end to our piece on the “Miracle on the Hudson” from our book Air Crashes and Miracle Landings:
Comparison with Ditching of Ethiopian Airliner
The media immediately contrasted Sully’s ditching and its perfect outcome with the imperfect one by Captain Leul Abate, the Ethiopian Airlines pilot who ditched his 767 off a beach, with one wing snagging the water and the aircraft spinning around before breaking up, with many lives lost. (A number of passengers were trapped due to premature inflation of their life vests causing them to float upward in the water-filled cabin.)
[Described earlier in this chapter.]
However, the two ditchings are not comparable:
1. Abate was coming down in the sea with waves;
2. A hijacker was grabbing at the controls;
3. With no fuel left, electrical power was only being provided by the ram air turbine (RAT), a wind-driven generator;
4. With only minimal electric power for the most basic instruments and controls, he could not use any flap and was therefore traveling much too fast, with the aircraft difficult to control.
However, like Sully he did well to come down somewhere where boats could come to the rescue of survivors.
A Very Close-run Thing
Only when one looks closely at the photos of the occupants of the A320 perched precariously on its wings does one realize what a close-run thing it was. The aircraft could have sunk deeper; there could have been jostling, with people falling into the water and dragging others with them.
Again, Sully did great—going twice up and down the cabin to check everyone was out and telling rescuers to first save those on the wings. But had the bird strike occurred a little earlier, with the aircraft not quite so high, he would not have been able to skirt the George Washington Bridge and come down at a shallow angle on the Hudson, let alone at a point where rescue craft were at hand.
It was a miracle—call it what you like—that Sully’s great feat was capped by the perfect rescue, thanks to an almost unbelievable combination of factors and, not least, diligence—and nothing went seriously wrong, as it so easily could have.