Tag Archives: Airliner

2 August 1947

British South American Airways’ Avro Lancastrian Mk.III, G-AGWH, R.M.A. Star Dust. (SDASM)

2 August 1947: At 1:46 p.m., British South American Airways Flight CS59 departed Buenos Aires, Argentina enroute Santiago, Chile. The airliner was an Avro Lancastrian Mk.III, registration G-AGWH, named R.M.A. Star Dust. The flight was under the command of Captain Reginald J. Cook, D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M., with First Officer Norman Hilton Cook, Second Officer Donald S. Checklin, Radio Operator Dennis B. Harmer and “Stargirl” Iris Morcen Evans. On this flight, in addition to the five-person airline crew, there were just six passengers.

Captain Reginald J. Cook, D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M.

At 5:41 p.m., Santiago airport received a routine Morse code signal from G-AGWH indicating the flight would arrive in four minutes:

ETA SANTIAGO 17.45 HRS STENDEC

The radio operator at Santiago did not understand “STENDEC” and asked the airliner’s radio operator to repeat it, which he did, twice. The airliner never arrived. A five-day search was unsuccessful. The meaning of the last word in the message has never been determined.

The fate of Star Dust remained a mystery until 1998, when two mountain climbers on Mount Tupungato—at 21,555 feet (6,570 meters), one of the highest mountains in South America—50 miles east of Santiago, found a wrecked Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engine in the ice of a glacier at the 15,000 foot level (4,572 meters). A search of the glacier in 2000 located additional wreckage and it was confirmed that this was the missing Lancastrian. The crash site is at S. 33°22’15.0″, W. 69°45’40.0″.

Investigators determined that the airliner had flown into the glacier at high speed and the crash caused an avalanche which buried the wreckage.

In 2002 the remains of eight persons were recovered from the glacier, five of which were identified through DNA.

Volcan Tupungato, 21,560 feet ( 6,570 meters). (Diode via Wikipedia)
1948 B.S.A.A. advertisement.

The Avro 691 Lancastrian Mk.III was a four-engine civil transport based on the World War II very long range heavy bomber, the Avro Lancaster. The Mk.III variant was built specifically for the British South American Airways Corporation by A.V. Roe & Co. Ltd, at Woodford, Cheshire, England, and was an improved version of the British Overseas Airways Corporation Lancastrian Mk.I. Eighteen Mk.IIIs were built for BSAAC. G-AGWH, serial number 1280, was the second of this series. It first flew on 11 November 1945 and was registered to BSAAC 16 January 1946.

The airliner was operated by a flight crew of four and carried one flight attendant. It could carry up to thirteen passengers. The Lancastrian Mk.III was 76 feet, 10 inches (23.419 meters) long with a wingspan of 102 feet (31.090 meters) and overall height of 19 feet, 6 inches (5.944 meters). The empty weight was 30,220 pounds (13,707.6 kilograms) and gross weight was 65,000 pounds (29,483.5 kilograms).

Avro Lancastrian Mk.III, G-AGWH, R.M.A. Star Dust

The Lancastrian Mk.III was powered by four 1,648.9-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04 liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged, Rolls-Royce Merlin T24/2 ¹ single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines producing 1,650 horsepower and turning three bladed propellers.

These gave the airplane a cruise speed of 245 miles per hour (394.3 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 315 miles per hour (506.9 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 25,500 feet (7,772 meters) and the range was 4,150 miles (6,679 kilometers).

Site of the wreck of Avro Lancastrian G-AGWH, S. 33°22’15.0″, W. 69°45’40.0″. (Google Maps)

¹ Two of G-AGWH’s Merlin T24/2 engines had been completely overhauled and converted to the Merlin 500-2 configuration. One engine was converted to a Merlin 502. The fourth engine remained as a T24/2. All engines had less than 1,200 hours total time since new (TTSN) and the converted engines were approximately 500 hours since overhaul (TSOH).

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

23 July 1983

Air Canada Flight 143, a Boeing 767-200, C-GAUN, after emergency landing at Gimli, Manitoba, 23 July 1983. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Air Canada Flight 143, a Boeing 767-200, C-GAUN, after emergency landing at Gimli, Manitoba, 23 July 1983. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Captain Robert Pearson
Captain Robert Pearson

23 July 1983: Air Canada Flight 143 was a Boeing 767-200, registration C-GAUN, enroute from Montreal to Edmonton, with a stop at Ottawa. On board were 61 passengers and a crew of eight. On the flight deck were Captain Robert Pearson and First Officer Maurice Quintal.

At 1:21 p.m., over Red Lake, Ontario, the 767 ran out of fuel and both engines stopped. This caused a loss of electrical and hydraulic power to the aircraft. The 767 was equipped with a “glass cockpit” and the pilots lost most of their instrumentation. The airliner became very difficult to fly without the hydraulic system functioning, and flaps and landing gear were inoperative.

Unable to reach Winnipeg for an emergency landing, Captain Pearson turned toward a closed airport, the former RCAF Station Gimli. First Officer Quintal had been stationed there during his military service.

Pearson had extensive experience flying gliders and used this knowledge to extend the glide of the 767. The airliner touched down on a closed runway that was being used as a race track. The nose gear, which had not locked when dropped by gravity, collapsed, and the airliner suffered some damage as it slid to a stop.

Of those aboard, there were ten people injured. The airliner was forever after known as “The Gimli Glider.”

The investigation of the accident faulted the airline for not reassigning the responsibility for calculating the fuel load when use of a flight engineer became unnecessary with the new Boeing 767, which was designed to be flown by a two-pilot crew. Also, the recent change from the Imperial measurement system to metric resulted in a series of miscalculations as to how much fuel was actually aboard the aircraft before the flight.

In 2008, C-GAUN was retired to The Boneyard at Mojave, California. Captains Pearson and Quintal and several of the Flight 143 flight attendants were aboard on her final flight.

Air Canada’s Boeing 767-200, C-GAUN, “The Gimli Glider,” in storage at Mojave. (Akradecki via Wikipedia)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

23 July 1970

McDonnell Douglas DC-10 rollout at Long Beach, 23 July 1970. (Boeing)

23 July 1970: At Long Beach, California, the first McDonnell Douglas DC-10 airliner was rolled out. A DC-10-10, serial number 46500 with FAA registration N10DC, this aircraft was used for flight testing and Federal Aviation Administration certification. It made 989 test flights, accumulating 1,551 flight hours. It was put into commercial service with American Airlines 12 August 1972, re-registered as N101AA.

The DC-10 was a wide-body commercial airliner designed for medium to long range flights. It was flown by a crew of three and depending on the cabin arrangement, carried between 202 and 390 passengers. The DC-10-10 was 170 feet, 6 inches (51.968 meters) long with a wingspan of 155 feet, 4 inches (47.346 meters) and overall height of 58 feet, 1 inch (17.704 meters). The airliner had an empty weight of 240,171 pounds (108,940 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 430,000 pounds (195,045 kilograms). It was powered by three General Electric CF6-6D turbofan engines, producing 40,000 pounds of thrust, each. These gave the DC-10 a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.88 (610 miles per hour, 982 kilometers per hour). Its range is 3,800 miles (6,116 kilometers) and the service ceiling is 42,000 feet (12,802 meters).

In production from 1970 to 1988, a total of 386 DC-10s were built in passenger and freighter versions. 122 were the DC-10-10 variant. Another 60 KC-10A Extender air refueling tankers were built for the U.S. Air Force and 2 KDC-10 tankers for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

The first McDonnell Douglas DC-10 was in service with American Airlines from 12 August 1972 to 15 November 1994 when it was withdrawn from service and placed in storage at Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 24-year-old airliner had accumulated 63,325 flight hours.

After three years in storage, the first DC-10 returned to service flying for Federal Express. In 1998 it was modernized as an MD-10 and re-registered again, this time as N530FE. It was finally retired from service and scrapped at Goodyear, Arizona in 2002.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

19 July 1989

United Airlines’ DC-10 N1819U, Flight 232, on final approach to Sioux City Gateway Airport, 19 July 1989. In this image, damage to the right horizontal stabilizer is visible, and the aircraft tail cone is missing. (Wikipedia)

19 July 1989: United Airlines Flight 232 was a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10, registration N1819U, enroute from Stapleton International Airport, Denver, Colorado to O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois. There were 296 persons aboard the airliner: 285 passengers and 11 crew members. The flight crew consisted of Captain Alfred C. Haynes, First Officer William Record, and Second Officer Dudley Dvorak. Also aboard, riding in the passenger cabin, was an off-duty United Airlines DC-10 Check Airman, Captain Dennis E. Fitch.

At 3:16:10 p.m., the fan disk of the airliner’s tail-mounted General Electric CF6-6 turbofan engine (Number Two) failed catastrophically. Shrapnel from the exploding engine chopped through the DC-10’s tail section and severed the three independent hydraulic systems that powered the flight control surfaces. The crew immediately lost their ability to control the airliner with rudder, elevators and ailerons. Flaps and wing leading edge slats were inoperative. Controls to the damaged engine also failed and only by cutting off fuel flow were they able to shut if down and prevention further damage or a fire. Landing gear could only be lowered by use of an emergency procedure.

The uncontrolled airliner immediately started to roll and dive. The pilots’ cockpit flight controls were completely useless to stop the roll. Only by varying the thrust on the two remaining wing mounted engines could some degree of control be maintained. Realizing there was a problem with the DC-10, Captain Fitch told a flight attendant to inform Captain Haynes that he was aboard and ask if he could assist. Haynes immediately asked Fitch to come forward, and once there to take over the throttle controls while the crew dealt with all the other problems that were occurring.

Flight 232 radar  track. (NTSB)

The simultaneous loss of all three hydraulic systems was considered to be “impossible” and there were no emergency procedures to deal with the problem. The crew did the best they could by varying power on the two remaining engines to turn the airplane and to descend. They were heading for an emergency landing at Sioux City Gateway Airport, Iowa (SUX).

United Airlines Flight 232 on final approach to Sioux Gateway Airport, 19 July 1989. (Gary Anderson/Sioux City Journal)

At 4:00:16 p.m., the DC-10 touched down on Runway 22 at an estimated at 215 knots (247.4 miles per hour, 398.2 kilometers per hour) and a rate of descent of 1,620 feet per minute (8.23 meters per second). At about 100 feet (30.5 meters) above the ground, the airliner’s nose began to pitch downward and the airliner started to roll to the right. Touchdown was at the runway threshold, just left of the centerline.

The DC-10 touched down at teh threshold of Runway 22, just left of the centerline.
The DC-10 touched down at the threshold of Runway 22, just left of the centerline.
Captain Alfred C. Haynes

The force of the impact caused the airframe break apart and the wreck rolled over to the right side of the runway. Fuel exploded and fire spread. 110 passengers and 1 flight attendant were killed in the crash and fire. There were 185 survivors of the crash, including the four pilots who were trapped in the crushed nose section of the airplane which had broken away from the main wreckage.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation determined that the the center engine fan disk failed due to a crack which had formed when the original titanium ingot from which it was made had been cast 18 years before.

The official report said that a landing under these conditions was stated to be “a highly random event“. The NTSB further noted that “. . . under the circumstances the UAL flight crew performance was highly commendable and greatly exceeded reasonable expectations.”

This was one of the finest displays of airmanship during an inflight emergency since the beginning of aviation.

An iowa National Guard UH-1 medevac helicopter hovers over the wreckage of the United DC-10.
An Iowa National Guard UH-1 medevac helicopter hovers over the wreckage of the United Airlines DC-10, 19 July 1989.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

17 July 1996, 00:31:12 UTC

Trans World Airlines’ Boeing 747-131 N93119 at London Gatwick Airport. (Cropped detail from photograph by Burmarrad via JetPhotos.net)

17 July 1996, 8:31 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time: Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight 800, a Boeing 747-131, FAA registration N93119, was enroute from New York to Paris with 212 passengers and 18 crewmembers persons aboard, and had been cleared to climb from 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) to 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The airliner exploded in mid-air, 8.1 miles (13.04 kilometers) south of E. Moriches, New York.

The flight crew of an Eastwind Air Lines flight reported the explosion to Air Traffic Control. Many witnesses described an ascending streak of orange light, originating near the surface and ending in a fireball. Burning debris fell into the sea. All 230 persons on board were killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the explosion was a result of fuel vapor in the center wing tank being ignited by a short circuit.

PROBABLE CAUSE: An explosion of the center wing fuel tank (CWT), resulting from ignition of the flammable fuel/air mixture in the tank. The source of ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty, but, of the sources evaluated by the investigation, the most likely was a short circuit outside of the CWT that allowed excessive voltage to enter it through electrical wiring associated with the fuel quantity indication system.

Contributing factors to the accident were the design and certification concept that fuel tank explosions could be prevented solely by precluding all ignition sources and the design and certification of the Boeing 747 with heat sources located beneath the CWT with no means to reduce the heat transferred into the CWT or to render the fuel vapor in the tank nonflammable.

The 747-100 series was the first version of the Boeing 747 to be built. It was designed to carry 366 to 452 passengers,depending on seating configuration. It is 231 feet, 10.2 inches (70.668 meters) long with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 5 inches (19.329 meters). The interior cabin width is 20 feet (6.096 meters), giving it the name “wide body.” Its empty weight is 370,816 pounds (168,199 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 735,000 pounds (333,390 kilograms).

The 747-100 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7A turbofan engines which produce 47,670 pounds of thrust, each, with water injection (2½ minutes). Its cruise speed is 0.84 Mach (555 miles per hour, 893 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) and it maximum range is 6,100 miles (9,817 kilometers).

Boeing 747-131 N93119 was one of the oldest 747s in service, having been delivered to TWA 27 October 1971. At the time off its destruction, the airframe had accumulated 93,303 flight hours (TTAF).

During the investigation by the national Transportation Board (NTSB) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fragments of the Boeing 747 were reaasembled. (NTSB)
During the investigation by the National Transportation Board (NTSB) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fragments of the Boeing 747 were reassembled. (NTSB)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes