In Air Crashes and Miracle Landings we describe two “catastrophic” cases where the shrapnel from the engine struck vital parts, even in more than a hundred places, and by dint of great airmanship the aircraft was brought back with many and all surviving. In the case of Southwest 1380 unfortunately it was a passenger who suffered.
The first of the two incidents was the “Uncontrollable” DC-10’s Miracle Landing at Sioux City. United Airlines Flight 232, July 19, 1989.
The engine that disintegrated was in the tail of the jumbo trijet. In that case, rather than single blade as in South west 1380 that might have been retained by the protective casing, it was a blade-retaining disk further down in the engine that shattered with a with a large heavy piece penetrating the fuselage and slicing through the triplicate (for safety on the belt-and-braces principle) hydraulic control lines for the rudder and elevators in the tail.
With no rudder of ailerons, and no hydraulic pressure to operate the ailerons the aircraft was theoretically uncontrollable. However, with the help of an off-duty captain who had been sitting in First Class and who on realizing something was wrong had offered his services, they were able to maneuver the aircraft by adjusting the power of the two engine in pods under the wings. This was facilitated by the fact that they were very low-slung to balance the third engine (the broken one) high up in the tail. However, they were only able to make crude adjustments and, unlike conventional controls, any action (increase or decrease of power one one side or the other) would take several or more seconds to have an effect.
They managed to come in with an extremely high rate of descent into Sioux City Airport but with a wing dropping and correction in time impossible it snagged the ground and crumpled . The aircraft cartwheeled and broke into five piece.
Incredibly, 185 people out of 296 survived, making a death toll of 111. That so many survived was to some extent due to the sterling efforts of the cabin crew and their rigorous training in a simulator, which made a crash landing and fire seem real.
Even so, their contribution would have probably been in vain, supposing they were even still alive, had not the high rate of descent and the 215 + 10 knot ground speed been absorbed in some manner. This is a prime example of the fact mentioned in this book’s preface that the more horrendous-looking crashes can be the most survivable, due to the fracturing and crumpling absorbing the shock.
It is a remarkable tale, and must rank as one of the true aviation “miracles.”
The other incident we describe in detail in the book is Qantas Flight QF 32, on November 4, 2010, where the engine on a double-decker Airbus A380 superjumbo disintegrated with shrapnel hitting it in some hundred places but fortunately not penetrating the passenger cabin. With almost 95% of systems compromised and fuel leaking from the wing the pilots flew around for an hour solving as many problems as possible before landing faster than usual with a dangerously overweight aircraft and hardly any runway to spare.
It is another example of great airmanship.
The pilot (and copilot) have been praised. Interestingly they cane in faster than usual at 170 knots, apparently because of the limited flap. However, when unsure of the state of the aircraft extra speed and one at which the aircraft is known to be OK is the safest option. One only too well remembers the DC-10 in the photo below that flipped over and crashed when the loss (falling off) of an engine caused the slats on tha twing to retract. The pilots had followed the rule-book and slowed, when had they stayed at their speed the wing would not have stalled and the aircraft would have been flyable. (The idea behind slowing down was to avoid the theoretic danger of a damaged aircraft breaking up.)
Surprising tweet from someone who indicated an agenda
There have been many tweets praising the captain of Southwest 1380. Yet, there was one admonishing her because her voice in her verbal exchanges with ATC did not indicate any compassion for the victim(s). No mention of the fact that, her essential job done, she came to give verbal support to the traumatised passengers. Could it have been fake news to bring someone with that agenda into disrepute?