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'November Oscar - Near Tragedy At LHR, 1989  
User currently offlineKaitak From Ireland, joined Aug 1999, 13265 posts, RR: 34
Posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 11668 times:

I was reading (don't ask me why) an issue of Pilot magazine from 1994, which gave a very detailed account of a near-accident in Nov 1989, when a BA 747-100, G-AWNO, was on approach to LHR in bad (foggy) weather.

The 747 was inbound from MRU and as a result of food poisoning, the FO and FE (and indeed the FE's wife, who was in the jump seat) were unable to perform their duties properly. The fog situation only added to the pressure; on top of that, the FO, as a relatively new pilot on the 747 fleet, was not Cat II or III qualified, so a special dispensation had to be obtained. The workload on the captain was immense. Furthermore, the Sperry autopilot had difficulty capturing the 27R ILS at LHR and as a result of this, the aircraft ended up well to the right of 27R - down the Bath Road, missing the Heathrow Penta (now the Renaissance Hotel) by (according to some reports) 30m. Calls were made by shocked onlookers to BA HQ; ultimately, the 747 landed (it had to on its next attempt, fuel was critical) and the crew were suspended.

Capt Glen Stewart became the first commercial pilot to face a criminal prosecution. As a result of the internal investigation, he was demoted to FO, but this was unacceptable to the captain. He resigned and appealed against the CAA decision downgrading his licence to FO. As it happened, Capt Stewart was rated as only an "average" captain, but on that day, everything worked against him - crew illness, bad weather, autopilot problems.

Tragically, it all became too much for the captain. In December 1992, a little over 3 years after the incident, he drove 9 hours from his house and committed suicide.

[Edited 2009-02-16 11:06:50]

3 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineJBirdAV8r From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 4503 posts, RR: 19
Reply 1, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 11648 times:

I remember that story well. I remember reading that in the early nineties in my Air and Space Smithsonian magazine, and I believe the title of that particular article was "The November Oscar Incident." I've searched for it online once or twice in the past to no avail, as obviously that magazine of mine is long gone.

I got my head checked--by a jumbo jet
User currently offlineJER757 From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2006, 350 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 11531 times:

That's shocking...

Was the Captain demoted purely because of the near miss with the hotel?

The number of things that went against him is incredible; granted it was a *very* close call, however I don't see what more he could have done with an incapacitated crew in an aircraft with little fuel remaining.

Did the prosecutors say he should have diverted?

Gale force fog... don't you love it?
User currently offlineKaitak From Ireland, joined Aug 1999, 13265 posts, RR: 34
Reply 3, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 11321 times:

Quoting JER757 (Reply 2):
Was the Captain demoted purely because of the near miss with the hotel?

Well, that would be enough! Without being completely sure, because the article wasn't clear on that, I think that it was felt that his command decisions were poor and that he should have diverted. Although he had to work with the deck heavily stacked against him, it is probably fair to say that it was so stacked because of decisions he made; a 747 Classic is not designed for single pilot operations in any conditions, but certainly not Cat II conditions, such as those at the time of the landing.

Quoting JER757 (Reply 2):
Did the prosecutors say he should have diverted?

Technically, I think that the prosecutors' duty was to prove the criminal charge of "reckless endangerment" and presumably, this would have come into it, in that they would have to prove that another outcome would have been possible if he made decisions other than those he actually made.

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