Thursday, July 21, 2011

Extract from The Anatomy of a Miracle

Just because it was such fun to read:

"It is obvious that no one will set soaring records in an airliner without power, but experience shows that a total loss of thrust is not necessarily catastrophic. There was the 1982 case, for instance, of a British Airways Boeing 747 that flew through a volcanic plume one night over Indonesia and suffered compressor stalls, surges, and the loss of all four engines at 37,000 feet. The ensuing glide (with engines harmlessly belching fire) was written up afterward as a “near-death” experience for the passengers, during which the airplane “plummeted.” But “near death” is a relative concept, and in fact the crew had more than 20 minutes of available gliding time, during which they figured they could reach a certain airport about 100 miles distant. The pilots were hardly relaxed. They were issuing Mayday calls to Jakarta Control, flying the airplane, handling the depressurization of the cabin, and struggling with procedures to re-start the engines. Nonetheless, in the midst of the glide, and with appropriate British aplomb, the captain announced to the cabin, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are all doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.” The captain’s name was Eric Moody, to give credit where it is due. A few people were indeed in distress, but perhaps because this was a flight from England to New Zealand, most of the passengers seem to have matched the captain’s calm. One, an aging British woman traveling with her aged mother, turned back to a Jane Austen novel at the first sign of trouble. Apparently, she just was not going to stand for this nonsense. And sure enough, as the airplane descended below 12,000 feet, the crew was able to re-start the engines."

From here.

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