Most of the us thinks airline pilot is an easy job. For most of the trip, the pilot is there to make sure nothing goes wrong. But sometimes, things do go wrong. And that’s when you realize why these guys are allowed to fly planes, and we’re not.
6. British Airways Flight 5390
On June 10, 1990, British Airways Flight 5390 took off from Birmingham, England and headed towards Malaga, Spain. The plane, a BAC 1-11, was carrying 81 passengers and four flight crew. The plane took off without incident and was gaining altitude for 20 minutes when passengers heard an explosion.The cause of the disturbance was the left windscreen of the cockpit had separated from the plane.To put this in perspective, it would be as if you were driving and your windshield just randomly flew off. Except you’re driving at over 500 miles per hour and suspended at 23,000 feet in the air. As a result of the malfunction, the pilot, Captain Timothy Lancaster, was ripped from his seat and sucked out of the missing cabin window. The door to the flight deck was blown open, giving passengers an unobstructed view of everything that was happening. The papers and debris from the cabin started blowing towards the nose of the plane. Captain Lancaster was saved by the quick thinking of flight crew member Nigel Ogden, who happened to be on the flight deck. Ogden grabbed Lancaster’s legs and clung to a chair to hold them steady. The 81 passengers watched as another crew member, Simon Rogers, rushed onto the flight deck, strapped himself into the pilot’s seat, and then grabbed hold of Lancaster, allowing Ogden to move to the back and treat his hand which he had gashed open when reaching for the captain.
5. British Airways Flight 9
Ash from a nearby volcano soon started to fill the air. An electrical anomaly known as St. Elmo’s fire suddenly erupted on the windshield. The passenger cabin began to smell of sulfur. Then, one by one, the engines began failing, clogged with volcanic ash. At this point, the falling aircraft had about 23 minutes of glide time until it hit the ocean. The crew frantically tried to restart the engines in mid-air.The plane continued to lose altitude and the oxygen masks dropped in the passenger compartment. The crew was about one minute away from having to make an emergency landing in an ocean with a 747 — something no one had ever tried. Then, in between bouts of frenzied cursing and pants-inflating bowel explosions, Moody and his crew tried one more time to restart the engines … and it worked. The engines spun back to life, one by one. They climbed and leveled the plane at 12,000 feet, then starting racing towards the nearest airport in Jakarta. On the way, the engines started clicking off again.And even worse, the windshield was so fogged up that they had to rely on the lights on the tarmac they could only see through a small, clear part of the windshield. And so they headed down, speeding toward the pavement, squinting through glass caked with goddamned volcano ash. Finally, with the sound of 248 unclenching passenger buttholes, the wheels touched down. No lives were lost.
4. Chinese Airlines Flight 006
In 1985, Chinese Airlines Flight 006 was flying from Taiwan to Los Angeles when an engine went out on the side of the plane.The same engine had failed twice on previous flights but restarted shortly after going out both times — which, according to traditional aircraft maintenance guidelines, is totally just as good as actually working.After the flight engineer tried and failed to revive the engine, the autopilot kicked in and tilted the plane 23 degrees to compensate for engine loss. But it didn’t stop at 23 degrees. Pilot Min-Yuan Ho, drawing from his years of experience, determined that commercial airliners don’t normally do this and disengaged the autopilot. By the time he did, the plane had tipped up on its side, and was falling fast.Things became even less OK when the plane started diving and turning at the same time, doing a barrel roll heading straight down, losing 10,000 feet of altitude in less than 20 seconds.The pilot managed to wrestle the aircraft under control with about 20 seconds to spare before it would have splashed down.
Incredibly, it landed with just a broken tail wing and only two seriously injured passengers which, given the operation standards of the airline, was probably well within normal guidelines.
3. American Airlines Flight 96
In 1972, American Airlines Flight 96 was on its way from Detroit to Buffalo. Just after taking off, there was the sound of a massive crash.One of the engines went down. McCormick managed to get control of the plane.He decided to turn around and go back to Detroit. Then, in the passenger area of the plane, a fog suddenly formed. Just as the crew was realizing this meant sudden decompression, the floor of the cabin started to collapse into the cargo hold. It turned out someone had forgotten to seal the cargo door, and the force of the takeoff had ripped it straight off and tossed it into the tail of the plane, disrupting the engine and the flaps in the back. And because the aircraft wasn’t sealed, the inside began breaking up due to the sudden decrease in pressure. Passengers were told to brace themselves for an emergency landing, and to put their yellow oxygen masks on. But the oxygen bags didn’t drop because they’re only deployed when the plane is above 14,000 feet, and they were a few thousand feet under that window. With shit officially getting real and the plane breaking up from the inside out, McCormick attempted a landing. They were coming in too hard and too fast, the sluggish controls putting the plane on a collision course with the hard surface of the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. McCormick fought to level out the plane, and got the wheels to the pavement, only to see the plane go skidding wildly off the runway. He wrestled the big bastard back under control, the plane finally coming to a rest with two of the three landing gear sitting in the grass off the side of the pavement. A few minor injuries. Amazing, considering an identical cargo door accident outside Paris resulted in the deaths of everybody on board. Either McCormick and his crew are damned good.
2. United Airlines Flight 232
This one doesn’t have as happy an ending as the rest. In 1989, United Flight 232 took off from Denver for Chicago. About an hour into the flight, an engine’s fan disk failed. This would be sort of like your bicycle partially exploding mid-pedal and taking off most of your right foot. he crew was finally able to cut off some fuel to the engine to get it to slow down, at which point they discovered that the yoke wasn’t working either. In short, they now had no control of the plane whatsoever.Improvising, Haynes and crew had to manually rev the remaining engines up and down to try to manipulate the rudderless aircraft and get it back to something close to level.An emergency landing alert was quickly issued to the plane at the Sioux City airport in Iowa. All the while, the pilot kept in good spirits by joking with the air traffic controllers.
As they came in to land, the crew managed to get the landing gear down and announced to the passengers that they should brace for impact. With no hydraulics, they were unable to control the speed at which the plane could land. A normal landing is at 140 knots, Flight 232 was coming in at 240 knots, which is less like landing and more like crashing at an angle.The wing of the plane hit first and burst into flames. The plane bounced violently and the tail section snapped off. After skidding further, the other wing came off and the plane ground to a halt, with fire and emergency crews rushing to the scene. A third of the passengers lost their lives,but the efforts of Haynes, co-pilot William Records and engineer Dudley Dvorak, saved the lives of 200 people.
1. Miracle on the Hudson
In 2009, US Airways Flight 1549, just after takeoff from New York, hit a flock of Canadian geese. The birds obscured the windshield, which would be bad on its own. But they also clogged up both engines, and the plane lost all power. What makes this case different from any on the list is that there would be no limping back to the airport for a hard landing on the runway. They weren’t going to have the power to get back to an airport. Captain “Sully” Sullenburger radioed traffic control and told them as much.He was going to have to set the plane down, which meant finding something other than a runway. In this case, all they had was the Hudson River. Right ahead of the plane was a little obstacle called the George Washington Bridge. It happens to span the Hudson River right across the spot where Sullenburger’s plane was going to make its descent. Тhe plane cleared the bridge by less than 900 feet, which had to be a nice wake-up call to the drivers on the bridge who looked up to see this hulking plane suddenly blotting out the sun.Sullenburger guided the plane down. Finally it slammed into the river at about 150 miles per hour, crashing into the waves with an impact that inside the plane must have sounded like the goddamned world was ending. But the plane held together, and everyone survived.