BlackBox
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"The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 9:21 am

Does anybody remember a network news special from the early '80s entitled "The Plane that Fell From the Sky"? I believe it aired on CBS in around '83 or '84. The program investigated a plane that suddenly and without explanation nose-dived while at cruise altitude and came very close to crashing. What real-life incident was this TV program discussing (year, airline, aircraft, etc.)? I seem to recall a TWA-looking 727 depicted in the show, but that doesn't necessarily mean the incident involved TWA.
 
smcmac32msn
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 9:28 am

I heard something about a (gasps with sarcasm) NW DC9 flying over Iowa when it went into coffin corner and started dropping like a leaf, the pilot quickly thought to put the landing gear down and that saved the aircraft by changing the airflow around the plane and the Center of Gravity..........

PLEASE DON'T TURN THIS INTO A NW DC9 THREAD JUST BECAUSE I SAID "NW DC9" IN MY POST!!!!
Hey Obama, keep the change! I want my dollar back.
 
luv2fly
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 9:36 am

I believe it was a TWA jet, I thought it was a 727 and after the pilots regained control the plane actually landed in TOL.
You can cut the irony with a knife
 
smcmac32msn
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 9:38 am

Luv2fly - I actually think your right, TOL rings a bell with that story.
Hey Obama, keep the change! I want my dollar back.
 
LoneStarMike
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 9:47 am

I don't remember the documentary, but I do vaguely remember the incident. It was TWA Flight 841 and it happened on April 4, 1979 over Saginaw, Michigan.

More info here

LoneStarMike

 
dc8jet
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 10:15 am

The aircraft was TWA B727-31 N840TW and it did happen on April 4, 1979 over Saginaw. It went from 39,000 to 5,000 in 63 seconds. There was some damage to the aircraft and an emergency landing was made at DTW.
 
BlackBox
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 10:15 am

Thanks all for the replies.

Yes, LoneStarMike, that sounds like the one. The plane plummeted about 30,000 feet in just over a minute, and was seconds away from impact before the crew miraculously regained control. Scary stuff.

Strangely enough, TWA had already lost a previous Flight 841, when a bomb exploded on TWA Flight 841 in 1974 from Athens to JFK. TWA came a mere seconds away from losing two planes with the same flight number, within a span of 5 years.
 
texdravid
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 10:24 am

The pilot saved the aircraft by lowering the landing gear, somehow slowing the descent and allowing him to control the aircraft and land it.
Tort reform now. Throw lawyers in jail later.
 
JUANR
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 10:28 am

OH!!! I was born in April 4th 1979!!!
:D Big grin Big grin

Juan
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Bogotá: 2600 Metros Más Cerca De Las Estrellas; Vamos por los XVII Juegos Nacionales!!!!!!!!!
 
LoneStarMike
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 11:29 am

TWA came a mere seconds away from losing two planes with the same flight number, within a span of 5 years.

Well, it took them 32 years, but TWA finally did end up having two fatal accidents involving the same flight number. (Flight 800) The first one was in 1964 at Rome. The second one happened 8 years ago tonight.

LoneStarMike

 
trijetfan1
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 1:06 pm

Yes, I read about that in the book "Unfriendly Skies" By pilot X. He talks about it.
Earned PPL June 26, 2007
 
AA717driver
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 3:48 pm

The NTSB, FAA and TWA management tried to hang the crew for the TW841 incident. They came up with some crazy scenario where the crew pulled a CB and it allowed them to extend the flaps to the 1 degree position without extending the leading edge slats. Supposedly that proveded a higher speed and the Capt. was allegedly trying to make a commuter flight.

This was my first experience with the FAA going to extrordinary lengths to try to pin a problem on a crew. After a lengthy and costly battle, the crew was exhonerated and the incident remains a mystery.

Couldn't have been a rudder problem, could it? Naaaah.TC
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kilroy
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 5:18 pm

so does any one in here know what coffin corner really is.????????
actually its when the aircraft is going so fast that the air flow of the wings becomes supersonic . As air passes over the elevators the flow moves towards the back of the elevator.the faster the plane goes the farther back the airflows goes until it is behind the elevators meaning no downward force on the elevators. this means there is no airflow over the resulting in a stall of the tail of the aircraft
 
LoneStarMike
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 5:51 pm

 
airtran737
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 7:33 pm

Speaking of MBS, didnt they have a crash there a while back when it was still called Tri-Cities Int'l? MY mom grew up just a few miles away from the airport, but she could give a rip about airplanes, so she doesnt know much about it.
Nice Trip Report!!! Great Pics, thanks for posting!!!! B747Forever
 
EMBQA
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 9:17 pm

I think had the CVR not been manually erased, some of the questions if it where crew induced would have never been raised.
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
 
electraBob
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Sun Jul 18, 2004 10:47 pm

AirTran737 --

Way back in 1958, a Capital Airlines Vickers Viscount turboprop crashed at Saginaw....47 fatalities....that could be what your mom is thinking of. I don't remember any other commercial crashes at MBS.
Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool.....
 
Tarheel
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Mon Jul 19, 2004 12:49 am

I remember a BA 747 flying in SE Asia when it ran into the debris of a volcano explosion and ultimately lost all 4 engines. Due to the high altitude, the crew was able to control the plane until it could restart the engines and safely land.
 
luv2fly
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Mon Jul 19, 2004 1:10 am

Tarheel

I believe you are thinking of an Air New Zealand flight that had that happen.
You can cut the irony with a knife
 
MSPPHL
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Mon Jul 19, 2004 1:51 am

It was indeed a BA 747 from Kuala Lumpur to Perth. It went through cloud of volcanic ash from Java’s Galunggung volcano. There are several incidents where inflight loss of power has occured from volcanic clouds. Shortly after the BA incident, a SQ 747 returned to Singapore after losing two engines. In 1989 a KL 747 lost all four after Alaska’s Mount Redoubt erupted. These all were clearly tied back to the volcanic ash and the havoc they play on engines, windscreens, and the airframe in general. Certainly different from the TWA incident, though just as tense for the crew.

-MSPPHL
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Mon Jul 19, 2004 2:05 am

so does any one in here know what coffin corner really is.????????
actually its when the aircraft is going so fast that the air flow of the wings becomes supersonic . As air passes over the elevators the flow moves towards the back of the elevator.the faster the plane goes the farther back the airflows goes until it is behind the elevators meaning no downward force on the elevators. this means there is no airflow over the resulting in a stall of the tail of the aircraft


That's a definition of supersonic airflow effects, not Coffin Corner/Coffin Alley.

Coffin Corner is the result of rising too high for the airframe. The higher you fly, the higher your stall speed in knots. Conversely, the higher you fly, the lower the Mach speed in knots. In the end, you are left out of space. Go slower and the plane stalls. Go faster and the plane runs into Mach buffet and the effects you described. One small shift in the wind or some turbulence and you pass the edges of the envelope. You are quite simply flying yourself into a figurative corner as the edges of the envelope get ever closer.

For a U-2/TR-2, the normal operating altitude leaves only a 10 knot speed window. Hairy for the pilot.
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PIA777
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RE: Flight Simulator Aircraft

Mon Jul 19, 2004 2:45 am

I also remember that TWA flight . I also remember that it happened over
Michigan and I also read about it in readers digest. The plane was a TWA 727
I remember the Captains nickname was "Hoot". He pulled the plane out of the dive by manually releasing the landing gear. He was later promoted to an L1011 but the investiagtion blamed him and TWA fired him.

PIA777
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747spa330md11
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Mon Jul 19, 2004 6:52 am

Was it this one ??


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F9Fan
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Tue Jul 20, 2004 12:51 pm

I'm thinking TWA has had a lot of bad luck with all flight numbers in the 840-849 range. Wasn't it TW 847 that was hijacked back in 1985 on a flight from ATH to FCO and flown to ALG and eventually BEY where the passengers were deplaned and eventually released (after one was murdered)? I also remember TW 840 flying from FCO to ATH had a bomb detonate on board killing two passengers when the seats they were seated in were sucked out the hole the bomb made. (I think TWA cancelled the FCO-ATH route after that.)

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Vimanav
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Thu Jul 22, 2004 1:16 am


I remember the Captains nickname was "Hoot". He pulled the plane out of the dive by manually releasing the landing gear. He was later promoted to an L1011 but the investiagtion blamed him and TWA fired him.

The story of TW841 (N840TW) remains a mystery as the reasons for that uncontrolled dive were never really resolved. A few points on the Captain and on the incident:

1. Besides B727s, Captain Harvey "Hoot" Gibson was already a qualfied pilot on DC9s, L1011s and the B747 (besides helicopters and hot air balloons). In fact he had started flying at the age of 13 and at the time of the incident (he was 44) he had accumulated 15710hrs.

2. He was an air traffic controller prior joining TWA in 1963.

3. He was a B747 F/O for a year and in DEC78 he had an accident which laid him off for 3 months. Upon his return he was made a Captain on B727s and on 28MAR that year he had just completed his route flight checks.

4. TW841 was his first flight as a full fledged Captain on B727s.

5. On that particular flight he climbed to 39000ft due to very strong headwinds (in excess of 100kts) at 35000ft, even though there were serious questions to the stability of the B727-100 at such a high altitude.

6. While the aircraft was plunging its average descent speeds was 46000ft per minute which went up to 76000ft per minute at one stage. The aircraft even broke the sound barrier on a couple of occasions during that uncontrolled dive.

7. The deployment of the landing gear (at 470kts) was the crucial action which ultimately saved the aircraft (despite a manufacturers directive that the gear should not be deployed above speeds of 270kts). However such was the effect of the slipstream that the right gear nearly came off and was blown backwards past the over-centre position.

8. Following the incident, it was found that deployment of slats at that altitude was responsible for this uncontrolled descent. The selection of flaps would also deploy slats. For 2 degrees of flap some of the slats would deploy while 5 degrees of more of flap selection would deploy all the leading edge devices. The operation of these devices is expressly forbidden on B727s above IAS 230kts and altitude of 20000ft. It was however rumoured that it was a widespread practice for crew to select flaps at cruising altitudes on the 727 to improve performance. Since the operation of leading edge devices at such altitudes seriously compromised safety, 727 crews, it was alleged were pulling the electrical circuit breaker which shut off the hydraulic valve that fed the slats thereby isolating the mechanism in retracted position and then extending trailing edge flaps to 2 degrees using the flap lever.

9. The implication was that the pilot of N840TW had on that day selected flaps but by some error the slat (second from outboard on the starboard wing) was also deployed causing the aircraft to chart this entirely unplanned flight path with hair raising effects to say the least.

10. The NTSB pinned the blame on the pilots though there was insufficient evidence to prove that they had adopted such a practice. One of the pilots on the NTSB investigating panel even mentioned that in a separate note attached to the NTSB ruling.

11. Though the NTSB ruling was challenged by 'Hoot' Gibson and an appeal against the verdict was launched, it took eight years before it reached the Supreme Court where again, very unfortunately Gibson's case was not one of those selected for review and the matter ended there.

12. As for the crew, F/O Gordon Banks found the pressure from the aftermath taking its toll on him and gave up flying to become a lecturer. F/E Jess Kennedy remained with TWA and gained his command.

13. 'Hoot' Gibson flew as Captain on L1011s for 3 years after the incident and then transferred to B747s as F/O in 1982. In 1983, the litigation in which he became involved had its effect and in JAN84, Gibson opted for early retirement on medical grounds with review after 5 years. He went back to his farm in Costa Rica. After two years of farming 'Hoot' Ever-The-Pilot Gibson returned to flying duties with TWA in JAN86 as a B747 Captain.

It is widely felt in the aviation fraternity that gross injustice was done to 'Hoot' did a mighty fine job of bringing back a stricken aircraft safely. It is time that the judgement was reviewed.

Hope that gives some info about "the plane that fell from the sky". For more details check out the book 'Emergency - Crisis on the Flight Deck' by Stanley Stewart.

rgds//Vimanav
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cedarjet
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Thu Jul 22, 2004 2:05 am

Nice work Viminav; although one important fact that was missing from your info is that the crew wiped the CVR on landing. The CVR can (this may not be the case anymore) be wiped after the parking brake is set. As a result, the CVR only contained a few minutes of chat at the gate before the engines were shut down. It may have been done accidentally (it was a normal shutdown item) or on purpose. Either way, it didn't help Hoot's case.
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Vimanav
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RE: "The Plane That Fell From The Sky"

Thu Jul 22, 2004 2:18 am

Dear Cedarjet

I tried to keep my post as concise as possible and hence missed out that point. Thanks for bringing that up... yes it was a very important aspect as well and erasing the CVR after landing and setting the parking brake as per 'Hoot' himself was common so that nothing "unkind" that he may have said about the management would be recorded and used against him at a later date.

rgds//Vimanav
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