Tag Archives: Airliner

5 March 1966

British Overseas Airways Corporation's Boeing 707-436 Intercontinental, G-APFE. (BOAC)
British Overseas Airways Corporation’s Boeing 707-436 Intercontinental, G-APFE. (British Airways)

5 March 1966: British Overseas Airways Corporation Speedbird 911, an around-the-world flight, departed Tokyo-Haneda Airport (HND) at 1:58 p.m., enroute Hong Kong-Kai Tak (HKG), with 113 passengers and 11 crew members. The airliner was a Boeing 707-436 Intercontinental, serial number 17706, with British registration G-APFE. It was nearly six years old, having been delivered 29 April 1960, and had 19,523 hours on the airframe.

Shortly before takeoff, the flight crew requested a change from an IFR flight plan to VFR, with a course that would take the airliner near Mount Fuji. The 707 climbed to an altitude of 16,000 feet (4,875 meters) as it approached the mountain from the southwest. The weather was very clear. A weather station on Fuji recorded wind speeds of 60–70 knots (111–130 kilometers per hour).

Speedbird 911 in a flat spin, trailing fuel vapor.

Flying upwind toward Fuji at 320–370 knots (592–685 kilometers per hour), Speedbird 911 encountered severe Clear Air Turbulence that resulted in a catastrophic structural failure of the airframe. The vertical fin attachment failed and as it fell away, struck the left horizontal stabilizer, breaking it off. Next, the ventral fin and all four engine pylons failed due to extreme side loads. The 707 went in to a flat spin, trailing fuel vapor from ruptured tanks. The entire tail section broke away, the right wing failed, and the nose section came off.

The 707 left a debris field  that was 10 miles (16 kilometers) long. Speedbird 911 crashed in a forest on the lower flanks of Mount Fuji at about the 3,500 foot (1,066 meter) level. The forward section crashed about 1,000 feet (300 meters) away from the main wreckage. All 124 persons aboard were killed.

Speedbird 911, Boeing 707 G-APFE, in a flat spin. The tail section and engines are missing, the right wing is broken and the airplane is trailing fuel vapor from ruptured tanks.

Probable Cause(s) The probable cause of the accident is that the aircraft suddenly encountered abnormally severe turbulence over Gotemba City which imposed a gust load considerably in excess of the design limit.

ICAO Circular 82–AN/69 at Page 49

Disintegrating Speedbird 911 trails fuel vapor as it falls toward Mount Fuji, 5 March 1966.

The accident was photographed by the Japanese Self Defense Forces from the East Fuji Maneuver Area, located in the foothills of the volcano. A passenger aboard Speedbird 911 had been filming with an 8 mm movie camera. The camera and film were recovered from the wreckage and the film was developed as part of the investigation. The film showed that the aircraft had experienced severe turbulence immediately before the accident. (Investigators estimated the peak acceleration at 7.5 g.)

A U.S. Navy Douglas A-4 Skyhawk was sent to look for the accident site. When the fighter approached Mount Fuji, it also encountered severe turbulence, to the point that the pilot feared the small fighter would break up in flight. After returning to base, the A-4 was grounded for inspection. Its accelerometer indicated that it had experienced acceleration forces ranging from +9 Gs to -4 Gs.

Mount Fujiyama, an active stratovolcano, i steh tallest mountain in Japan, at 12,389 feet (3,776.24 meters). It i sapproximately 62 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of Tokyo on the island of Hinshu.
Mount Fuji, an active stratovolcano, is the tallest mountain in Japan, at 12,389 feet (3,776.24 meters). It is approximately 62 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of Tokyo on the island of Honshu. (Alpsdake)

G-APFE was a Boeing 707-436 Intercontinental, built in 1960 for British Overseas Airways. At the time of the accident, it had made 6,744 flights and accumulated a total of 19,523:33 hours (TTAF).

The -436 was a stretched version of the original 707-120, but with Rolls-Royce Conway 508 bypass turbojet engines (now called turbofans) in place of the standard Pratt & Whitney JT3C-6 turbojet engines. 15 ordered by British Overseas Airways Corporation in 1956.

The fuselage and wings of the Intercontinental were lengthened, allowing an increased load and greater fuel capacity. It could carry 189 passengers and had a range 1,600 miles further than the -120. Transoceanic flights without an intermediate fuel stop were possible.

Initially, British aviation authorities refused to certify the -436 because of low-speed handling concerns. Boeing increased the height of the vertical fin 40 inches and added a ventral fin. These modifications became standard on all future 707s and were retro-fitted to those already manufactured.

The Boeing 707-420 series airliners were 152 feet, 11 inches (46.609 meters) long, with a wingspan of 142 feet, 5 inches (43.409 meters) and overall height 42 feet, 2 inches (12.852 meters) at its operating empty weight. The leading edges of the wings and tail surfaces are swept 35°. The fuselage has a maximum diameter of 12 feet, 8.0 inches (3.759 meters). The 707 International has a typical empty weight of 142,600 pounds (64,682 kilograms), and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 312,000 pounds (141,700 kilograms). The usable fuel capacity is 23,820 gallons (90,169 liters).

British Overseas Airways Corporation Boeing 707-436 International G-APFE photographed at Idlewild Airport, 27 June 1962. (Jon Proctor)

All 707-series aircraft are powered by four jet engines installed in nacelles below and forward of the wings on pylons. The -420 Internationals were powered by Rolls-Royce Conway Mk. 508 engines. The Rolls-Royce Conway (R.Co.12) is a two-spool, axial-flow, low-bypass turbofan engine. The engine has a 7-stage low- and 9-stage high-pressure compressor section, 12 interconnected combustion liners, with a single-stage high- and 2-stage low-pressure turbine. The Mk. 508 has a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 14,625 pounds of thrust (65.055 Kilonewtons), and 17,500 pounds of thrust (77.844 Kilonewtons) at 9,990 r.p.m., for Takeoff. The engine is 3 feet, 6.0 inches (1.067 meters) in diameter, 11 feet, 4.0 inches (3.454 meters) long, and weighs 4,542 pounds (2,060 kilograms).

The -420 series had a maximum cruise speed of 593 miles per hour 954 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters)—0.87 Mach; and economical cruise speed of 550 miles per hour (885 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10668 meters).

Boeing built 1,010 Model 707 airplanes between 1957 and 1979. Of these, 37 were the 707-420 Intercontinental variant.

A British Overseas Airways Corporation Boeing 707-420-series International airliner, similar in appearance to G-APFE. (Travell Update)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

4 March 1936

Airship Hindenburg, D-LZ129, at Friedrichsafen, Germany
Airship Hindenburg, D–LZ 129, over Friedrichshafen, Germany, March 1936. (Unattributed)
Dr. Hugo Eckener

4 March 1936: The airship Hindenburg (D–LZ 129) made its first flight at Friedrichshafen, on the north shore of Lake Constance in southern Germany. In command was Hugo Eckener,¹ chairman of Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH. There were 87 passengers and crew aboard.

The airship was operated by a flight crew of 40, with 12 stewards and cooks. There were 50 passenger sleeping berths in private cabins, with large public areas on the upper, “A” deck, with crew quarters, galley, a public bar and smoking lounge on the lower “B” deck. The ship’s control station was located in a gondola below the forward part of the hull.

The airship was designed by Ludwig Dürr. Its rigid structure was built of triangular-section duralumin girders (a specially heat-treated alloy of aluminum and copper, and anodized blue for corrosion protection). There were 15 ring frames and 36 longitudinals.

The airship’s control surfaces were operated by electric servo motors.

The Zeppelin’s covering was cotton fabric painted with a cellulose varnish which had been impregnated with aluminum powder, both to give it the silver color, but also to act as a reflector to protect the sixteen hydrogen-filled bouyancy gas bags contained inside from heat and ultraviolet light.

Hindenburg's dining room (Speisesaal).
Hindenburg‘s dining room (Speisesaal). (O. v. Stetten)

Hindenburg was 803 feet, 10 inches (245.008 meters) long, with a diameter of 135 feet, 1 inch (41.173 meters). Hindenburg had a gross weight of approximately 215,000 pounds (97,522 kilograms).

The huge airship was powered by four liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 88.514 liter (5,401.478-cubic-inch-displacement) Daimler-Benz DB 602 50° V-16 diesel engines with 4 valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 16:1. Mounted in a pusher configuration, the engines turned 19 foot, 8.4 inch (6.005 meter) diameter, four-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propellers through a 0.50:1 gear reduction. The DB 602 had a cruise power rating of 850 horsepower at 1,350 r.p.m. It could produce 900 horsepower at 1,480 r.p.m., and a maximum 1,320 horsepower at 1,650 r.p.m. (5 minute limit). The engines could be run in reverse. The DB 602 was 2.69 meters (8 feet, 10 inches) long, 1.02 meters (3 feet, 4 inches) wide and 1.35 meters (4 feet, 5 inches) high. Each engine weighed 1,976 kilograms (4,356 pounds).

A Daimler-Benz DB 602 V-16 diesel airship engine at the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen. (Wikipedia)
This photograph shows Hindeburg's duralumin structure and a latex/cotton hydrogen cell. A walkway goes through the center of the cell.
This photograph shows Hindenburg‘s duralumin structure and a latex/cotton hydrogen cell. A walkway goes through the center of the cell. (Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH)

Lift was provided by 16 hydrogen gas cells which were made of multiple layers of cotton fabric which was brushed with latex gelatin. These contained 7,062,000 cubic feet (199,974 cubic meters) of hydrogen with a lift capacity of 511,500 pounds (232,013 kilograms), nearly double the airship’s weight when fully loaded.

LZ 129 had a cruising speed of 76 miles per hour (122 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 84 miles per hour (135 kilometers per hour).

Airship Hindenburg, D-LZ129, moored.
Airship Hindenburg, D–LZ 129, moored at Lakehurst, New Jersey, 1936. (U.S. Navy).

¹ Eckner is universally referred to as “Dr. Eckener.” He earned a doctorate from the Institute for Experimental Psychology, University of Leipzig, 1892.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

2 March 1969

Aérospatiale Concorde 001 first flight, at Toulouse, 2 March 1969, test pilot André Edouard Turcat.
Aérospatiale Concorde 001 first flight, at Toulouse, 2 March 1969, test pilot André Edouard Turcat.

2 March 1969: Just three weeks after the prototype Boeing 747, City of Everett, made its first flight at Seattle, Washington, the first supersonic airliner prototype, Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde Aircraft 001, registration F-WTSS, made its first flight, taking off from Runway 33 at the Aéroport de Toulouse-Blagnac, Toulouse, France.

On the flight deck were André Édouard Marcel Turcat, Henri Perrier, Michel Retif and Jacques Guinard.

The flight lasted 27 minutes. Throughout the flight, the “droop nose” and landing gear remained lowered.

Concorde was the only commercial airliner capable of cruising at supersonic speeds.

The flight test crew of Concorde 001. Left to right, Andre Edouard Turcat, Henri Perrier, Michel Retif and Jacques Guinard. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
The flight test crew of Concorde 001. Left to right, André Edouard Turcat, Henri Perrier, Michel Retif and Jacques Guinard. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

There were two Concorde prototypes (the British Aerospace Corporation built Concorde 002) followed by two pre-production developmental aircraft and sixteen production airliners.

Concorde 001 is 51.80 meters (169 feet, 11.4 inches) long, with a wingspan of 23.80 meters (78 feet, 1 inch). Its fuselage has a maximum height of 3.32 meters (10 feet, 10.7 inches) and maximum width of 2.88 meters (9 feet, 5.4 inches) max internal height 1.96 m (6 feet, 5.2 inches). The prototype’s empty weight is 78,700 kilograms (173,504 pounds), and the maximum takeoff weight is 185,000 kilograms (407,855 pounds). (Pre-production and production Concorde weights and dimensions vary.)

The Concorde is powered by four Rolls-Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593 Mk.610 engines. The Mk. 610 is a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet with afterburner. The compressor section as 14 stages (7 low- and 7 high-pressure stages). Two-stage turbine has 1 high- and 1 low-pressure stage. The engine has a maximum continuous power rating of 28,800 pounds of thrust (128.11 kilonewtons). It is rated at 37,080 pounds (164.94 kilonewtons) for takeoff (5 minute limit). During takeoff, the afterburners produce approximately 20% of the total thrust. The Olympus 593 Mk.613 is 1.212 meters (3.976378 feet) in diameter, 4.039 meters (13.251312 feet)long, and weighs 3,175 kilograms (7,000 pounds).

Production Concordes were certified for a maximum operating cruise speed of Mach 2.04, and a maximum operating altitude of 60,000 feet (18.288 meters). The maximum range 3,900 was nautical miles (4,488 statute miles/7,223 kilometers).

Concorde 001 made 397 flight during flight testing. It accumulated a total of 812 hours, 19 minutes of flight time, of which 254 hours, 49 minutes were supersonic.

Today, Concorde 001 is displayed at the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, Aéroport de Paris – Le Bourget.

Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde 001, F-WTSS. (Aérospatiale)
Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde 001, F-WTSS. (Aérospatiale)

André Édouard Marcel Turcat was born 23 October 1921 at Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France. André was the son of Emile Gaston Turcat and Claire Victoria Jeane Marie Françoise Fleury Turcat. His uncle, Léon Turcat, was co-founder of Ateliers de Construction d’Automobiles Turcat-Méry SA, a manufactuers of grand prix race cars. He was educated at l’École Polytechnique in Palaiseau, a suburb southwest of Paris.


During World War II, Turcat served in the Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres, (the  Free French Air Force).

On the day that World War II ended in Europe, 8 May 1945, André Turcat married Mlle Elisabeth Marie (“Julie”) Borelli in Marseille. They would have four children. One, a daughter, died in infancy.

Andre Turcat remained in the Armée de l’air after the war. He flew the Douglas C-47 Skytrain during the First Indochina War. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre des théâtres d’opérations extérieures.

In 1950, Turcat was admitted to the École du personnel navigant d’essais et de réception (EPNER), the test pilot school at Brétigny-sur-Orge, France. He served as director of EPNER, 1952–53.

In 1954, Major Turcat resigned from the Armée de l’air and became the chief test pilot at Société Française d’Etude et de Construction de Matériel Aéronautiques Spéciaux (SFECMAS) (later, Nord-Aviation), flight-testing the Nord 1500 Griffon. He made the first flight of the Nord 1500-01 Griffon, 20 September 1955. He flew the Griffon II, a mixed-propulsion aircraft powered by a turbojet and a ramjet engine, beginning with its first flight, 23 January 1957.

Flying a Griffon, Turcat set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Time to Altitude, 16 February 1957: 6,000 meters, 1:17.05;¹ 9,000 meters, 1:33.75;² and 12,000 meters, 2:17.70.³

Turcat reached Mach 2.19 with the Griffon II, for which he was awarded the Harmon Trophy for 1958. The trophy was presented by Richard M. Nixon, 37th President of the United States.

On 25 February 1959, Turcat flew the Griffon II to set an FAI World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 100 Kilometers, with an average speed of 1,643.00 kilometers per hour (1.015.32 miles per hour).⁴ The Académie des Sports awarded him its Prix Robert Peugeot for the greatest feat accomplished by French athletes in motorsports.

André Edouard Marcel Turcat (fifth from right) with the Nord 1500-02 Griffon, circa January 1957

Turcat joined Sud-Aviation as chief pilot for the Concorde.

Turcat and British Aerospace chief test pilot Ernest Brian Trubshaw, C.B.E., M.V.O., shared the 1970 Harmon Trophy, and in 1971, the Iven C. Kincheloe Award of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Iven C. Kincheloe Award for their outstanding professional accomplishments in flight testing.

André Turcat and Brian Trubshaw.

After 740 flight hours in Concorde, Andre Turcat retired from Aérospatiale, 31 March 1976. He never flew an airplane again.

As a politician, M. Turcat served as deputy mayor of Toulouse, 1971–77; and as a member of the European Parliament, 1980–81.

In 1983, Turcat founded l’Académie nationale de l’air et de l’espace (ANAE) and served as its first president.

In 1990 Turcat earned a doctorate degree in the study of Christian art. He was the author of Pilote d’essais (Ciels du monde t.1); Concorde: Essais d’hier, betailles d’aujourd’hui, 30 and de réve; Les plus beaux textes de la Bible; Moi, Etienne Jamet, alias Esteban Jamete: Sculpteur français de la Renaissance en Espagne comdamné par l’Inquisition; and Une épopeé française.

During his aviation career, Turcat flew more than 6,500 hours in 110 different aircraft. He had been awarded the Médaille de l’Aéronautique. The United Kingdom had appointed him Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.). In 2005 Andre Turcat was named Grand Officier Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur.

André Édouard Marcel Turcat died at his home in Aix-en-Provence, 3 January 2016 at the age of 94 years.

André Édouard Marcel Turcat (FlightGlobal)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8611

² FAI Record File Number 8612

³ FAI Record File Number 8613

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

24 February 1957

Scandinavian Airlines Douglas DC-7C Guttorm Viking
Scandinavian Airlines System Douglas DC-7C LN-MOD, Guttorm Viking (SAS)

24–25 February 1957: Scandinavian Airlines System began flying regularly scheduled passenger flights from Copenhagen to Tokyo, via the North Pole, with the new Douglas DC-7C Seven Seas airliner, LN-MOD, named Guttorm Viking. The route of flight was Copenhagen, Denmark to Anchorage, Alaska, and onward to Tokyo, Japan. The airliner took of at 11:35 a.m. local time (11:35 UTC). The flight crew included Captain Hedell Hansen and Captain Kare Herfjord.

Simultaneously (8:35 p.m., 24 February), Reidar Viking, LN-MOE, took off from Tokyo, en route Copenhagen. The two airliners rendezvoused over the North Pole at 21:37, 24 February, UTC. ¹

En hälsning från Tokio med första reguljära SAS-turen via Nordpolen - den snabbaste hälsning Ni någonsin fått från Japan." "A greeting from Tokio with the first regular SAS-flight via the North Pole - the fastest greeting You ever have got from Japan." This SAS postcard was mailed 26 February 1957. (Famgus Aviation Post Cards)
En hälsning från Tokio med första reguljära SAS-turen via Nordpolen – den snabbaste hälsning Ni någonsin fått från Japan. “A greeting from Tokio with the first regular SAS-flight via the North Pole – the fastest greeting You ever have got from Japan.” This SAS postcard was mailed 26 February 1957. (Famgus Aviation Post Cards)

The polar route cut 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers) and took a total of 32 hours, rather than the previous 50 hour flight. The airliner returned on February 28, after 71 hours, 6 minutes.

Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) had invited hundreds of media representatives and more than a thousand others to attend the send off from Københavns Lufthavn, Kastrup. To ensure that there were no problems to delay the departure, a second fully-fueled and serviced DC-7C was standing by.

Guttorm Viking, a Scandinavian Airlines System Douglas DC-7C, LN-MOD, at Stockholm-Arlanda Airport, August 1967. (Lars Söderström )
Guttorm Viking, a Scandinavian Airlines System Douglas DC-7C, LN-MOD, at Stockholm-Arlanda Airport, August 1967. (Lars Söderström )

There were 47 passengers aboard the Guttorm Viking, including Prince Axel of Denmark, and Thor Heyerdahl (Kon-Tiki). Reidar Viking carried 45, with the Prince and Princess Mikasa of Japan.

Guttorm Viking made a refueling stop at Anchorage, Alaska, landing at 2:22 a.m. (07:22 UTC, and departing on schedule at 9:00 a.m. (14:00 UTC). It landed at Tokyo at 8:15 a.m., 26 February, Japan Standard Time (23:15, 25 February, UTC), 15 minutes ahead of schedule. The elapsed time of the flight was 32 hours, 31 minutes.

Reidar Viking landed at Copenhagen at 8:45 a.m. local time, Monday 24 February (08:45, 24 February, UTC), 35 hours, 40 minutes after departing Tokyo. The airliner had to make an additional fuel stop at Oslo, Norway, because of unexpected headwinds.

Reidar Viking, a Scandinavian Airlines System Douglas DC-7C, LN-MOE, at Stockholm-Arlanda Airport, May 1967. (Lars Söderström )
Reidar Viking, a Scandinavian Airlines System Douglas DC-7C, LN-MOE, at Stockholm-Arlanda Airport, May 1967. (Lars Söderström )

The DC-7C Seven Seas was the last piston-engine airliner built by Douglas Aircraft Company, intended for non-stop transcontinental and transatlantic flights. The DC-7 combined the fuselage of a DC-6 with the wings of a DC-4. The DC-7C version had 5 feet (1.524 meters) added to the wing roots for increased fuel capacity. By moving the engines further away from the fuselage, aerodynamic drag was reduced and the passenger cabin was quieter. The DC-7 had an extra 40-inch (1.016 meters) “plug” added to the fuselage just behind the wing. The DC-7C added another 40-inch plug ahead of the wing. The engine nacelles were also lengthened to provide room for additional fuel tanks.

The DC-7C was operated by two pilots, a navigator and a flight engineer. It had a maximum capacity of 105 passengers, requiring 4 flight attendants.

The airliner was 112 feet, 3 inches (34.214 meters) long with a wingspan of 127 feet, 6 inches (38.862 meters) and an overall height of 31 feet, 10 inches (9.703 meters). The empty weight was 72,763 pounds (33,005 kilograms). The maximum takeoff weight was 143,000 pounds (64,864 kilograms).

The Seven Seas was powered by four 3,347.662-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, fuel-injected, turbocompound Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 988TC18EA1 or -EA3 two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines (also known as the Duplex-Cyclone), with a Normal Power rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., and  3,700 horsepower at 2,900 r.p.m for takeoff. (A turbocompound engine uses exhaust-driven power recovery turbines to increase power to the crankshaft through a fluid coupling. This increased the engine’s total power output by approximately 20%.) The Cyclone 18 engines drove 13 foot, 11 inch (4.242 meters) diameter, four-bladed, Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 34E60 full-feathering, reversible-pitch, constant-speed propellers through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. The 988TC18EA1 was 7 feet, 5.53 inches (2.274 meters) in long, 4 feet, 10.59 inches (1.437 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,645 pounds (1,653 kilograms).

These engines gave the airliner a cruise speed of 308 knots (354 miles per hour/570 kilometers per hour) at 23,500 feet (7,163 meters). The service ceiling was 28,400 feet (8,656 meters) and maximum range was 4,900 nautical miles (5,639 statute miles/9,075 kilometers).

Douglas built 122 DC-7C airliners from 1956 to 1958. Scandinavian Airlines System bought 14 of them. The arrival of the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 turbojet-powered airliners soon made these piston-driven propeller airliners obsolete. Many were converted to freighters, but most were scrapped after only a few years service. Guttorn Viking and Reidar Viking were both scrapped in 1968.

¹    SAS announced that the Guttorm Viking passed the North Pole at 21:37 G.M.T. and the Reidar Viking at 21:43 G.M.T. The planes met at 21:40 G.M.T.

Manchester Guardian, No. 34,419, Monday, 25 February 1957, Page 1, Column 4

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

19 February 1985

China Airlines' Boeing 747SP, N45522V. Thi saircraft few as Dynasty 006, 18 February 1985. (Andrew Hunt)
China Airlines’ Boeing 747SP, N4522V. This aircraft few as Dynasty 006, 18 February 1985. (Andrew Hunt)

19 February 1985: At 10:16 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, while enroute from Taipei, Republic of China, to Los Angeles, California, China Airlines’ Flight 006 (call sign “Dynasty Six”), a Boeing 747SP-09, FAA registration N4522V, was cruising at 41,000 feet (12,497 meters), 300 nautical miles (556 kilometers) northwest of San Francisco, California. It had a crew of 23 with 251 passengers. The airliner had a flight crew of five under command of Captain Min-Yuan Ho, with a co-pilot and flight engineer, as well as a relief captain and flight engineer, due to the length of the trans-Pacific flight.

Captain Min-Yuan Ho, describing the incident to reporters at San Francisco Airport, 19 February 1985.
Captain Min-Yuan Ho, describing the incident to reporters at San Francisco Airport, 19 February 1985.

The Number 4 engine, the outboard engine on the airplane’s right wing, a Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7A turbofan, refused to respond with the other engines as the throttles were advanced, and it “hung” and remained at a low power level. It did not flame out, as the crew believed. The crew attempted restart procedures, however they did so incorrectly.

The airliner’s autopilot was engaged and the aircraft began to yaw and bank because of the asymmetric thrust. The copilot, First Officer Ju Yu Chang, used full opposite aileron to stop the roll, but neither pilot or copilot applied any rudder inputs to correct the yaw. (It was later determined that they believed, incorrectly, that the autopilot controlled rudder position.)

The airplane departed controlled flight, rolled over and dived. It lost 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) of altitude before the crew was able to recover, however the airplane was severely damaged, with bent wings, a damaged left aileron, lost parts of its elevators and horizontal stabilizers and damaged landing gear doors. It had experienced acceleration forces as high as 4.8 Gs as it descended through 30,552 feet (9,312 meters) and a peak 5.1 Gs at 19,083 feet (5,816 meters).

This illustration, based on the NTSB accident investigation, shows the various attitudes of China Airlines Flight 006 as it descended out of control, 19 February 1985. (Wikipedia)
This illustration, based on the NTSB accident investigation, shows the various attitudes of China Airlines Flight 006 as it descended out of control, 19 February 1985. (Wikipedia)

Of the 287 persons on board, 24 were injured. Two were seriously hurt and the flight diverted to San Francisco. The 747SP was substantially damaged. It was nearly two years before repairs completed.

China Airlines’ Boeing 747SP-09 N4522V, photographed at Amsterdam, 16 June 1991. (Torsten Maiwald/Wikimedia)

The National Transportation Safety Board investigation made the following findings:

3.1 Findings

1. The flightcrew was properly certificated and qualified.

2. The changing airspeeds encountered by Flight 006 and the resultant compensating throttle adjustments were caused by wind speed variations.

3. The No. 4 engine did not flame out, but “hung” at about 1.0 EPR.

4. During his attempt to recover the No. 4 engine, the flight engineer did not close the bleed air valve switch before advancing the No. 4 throttle.

5. The other three engines did not lose thrust nor did they flame out.

6. The captain did not disengage the autopilot in a timely manner after thrust was lost on the No. 4 engine. The autopilot effectively masked the approaching onset of the loss of control of the airplane.

7. The captain was distracted from his flight monitoring duties by his participation with the flight engineer in the evaluation of the No. 4 engine’s malfunction.

8. With the exception of the loss of thrust on the No. 4 engine, no other airplane malfunction affected the performance of the airplane; the loss of thrust on the No. 4 engine did not contribute to the accident.

9. The captain was also distracted by his attempts to arrest the airplane’s decreasing airspeed, and this also contributed to his failure to detect the airplane’s increasing bank angle.

10. The lateral control deflections required to maintain level flight under conditions of thrust asymmetry and decreasing airspeed exceeded the limits of the autopilot’s lateral control authority, causing the airplane to roll and yaw to the right. The captain lost control of the airplane when, after disengaging the autopilot, he failed to make the proper flight control corrections to recover the airplane.

11. The damage to the airplane was a result of the acceleration forces and high airspeeds that occurred during the upset and recovery maneuvers.

3.2 Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the captain’s preoccupation with an inflight malfunction and his failure to monitor properly the airplane’s flight instruments which resulted in his losing control of the airplane.

Contributing to the accident was the captain’s over-reliance on the autopilot after the loss of thrust on the No. 4 engine.

The captain had not slept during his previous rest period and his tiredness was considered a factor in this incident.

Damage to the tail surfaces of Boeing 747SP N4522V.
Damage to the tail surfaces of Boeing 747SP N4522V.

The Boeing 747SP (“Special Performance”) is a very long range variant of the 747-100 series airliners. It has a shorter fuselage and larger tail surface than the standard model. The weight savings allows it to carry more fuel for longer flights, and it is also faster. Boeing built 45 747SPs.

The 747SP is 184 feet, 9 inches (56.312 meters) long, with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters). It has an overall height of 65 feet, 10 inches (20.066 meters). It has a maximum takeoff weight of 670,000 pounds.

The airliner has a cruising speed of 0.88 Mach (616 miles per hour, or 991 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 0.92 Mach (680 knots, 1,094 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 45,100 feet (13,746 meters) and the range is 7,650 miles (12,311 kilometers), carrying 276 passengers and baggage. The fuel capacity is 47,210 gallons. (178,709 liters).

Damaged horizontal stabilizer and elevators of Boeing 747SP-09 N4522V (NTSB)

Boeing 747 SP N4522V (serial number 22805, line number 564) made its first flight 10 June 1982. It was leased to China Airlines by the Wilmington Trust Company, 15 June 1982 and delivered 29 June 1982.

Following the Flight 006 incident, the airliner was repaired by Boeing and returned to service 25 April 1985. It was leased to Mandarin Airlines from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 1997, then placed in storage at Las Vegas, Nevada.

On 18 December 2001, N4522V was purchased by Global Peace Initiative Inc. The FAA suspended its operating certificate 18 July 2005 for lack of proper maintenance. The airplane has been stored at Tijuana International Airport (TIJ), just south of the U.S./Mexico border, since 16 December 2005.

The FAA registration of N4522V expired 31 December 2016.

Boeing 747SP 09 serial number 22805. The airliner’s U.S. registration expired 31 December 2016. (Global Peace Initiative)
Boeing 747SP 09 serial number 22805. The airliner’s U.S. registration expired 31 December 2016. The derelict airliner was photographed at Tijuana, 16 June 2019. (Jorge Perez)

© 2021, Bryan R. Swopes