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See more of Inflatable Boat Warehouse Inc. Log In. Forgot account? Not Now. Visitor Posts. Chris Cannon. They limit angles of bank and elevation and are programmed to prevent stalls by precisely trading off angle of attack and airspeed and even automatically increasing power if required. A good pilot can do this but perhaps not as invariably or finely as the computer. A less good pilot is definitely made safer. This is not to say that the airplane cannot crash.

The Air France Flight out of Brazil that crashed in the Atlantic last June with people aboard--the cause still unknown--was an Airbus In one of the first As, with passengers aboard, some of whom had never flown before, was part of an unforgettable air show at a small field near Mulhouse in France. The passengers did not know they were taking part in a show; they mainly knew that they would be circling Mont Blanc on the flight. The pilot was an Airbus convert and enthusiast, forty-four years old with thousands of flying hours and an excellent reputation.

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There were to be two passes over the field, the first slow and the second at speed. The minimum altitude was to be one hundred feet. There were 15, spectators.

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The pilot had disengaged the automatic throttle advancement, which presumably one should not be able to do, in order to hold the plane on the very knife edge a second or two longer than the computers would allow, and then to shove the throttles forward himself. He did it too late. The airplane, refusing to stall but without the power it needed to go higher, plowed into the trees, first the tail and then gradually, as if drawn into the forest, the rest:.

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For the air show spectators, the sight was surreal. First the airplane sailed by them almost within reach, with some announcer finding things to say.

Then they watched it sail away and, without the slightest urgency, continue smoothly into the trees. Lifted by its wings, and still largely under control, it sank slowly from sight with its nose held high, until only the nose was visible moving forward through the forest like the head of a swimmer refusing to drown.

A great burst of flame marks the end. Actions of the flight attendants saved almost all lives. Langewiesche's descriptions of accidents in addition to this one are particularly dramatic and convincing. Accident reports are frequently like legal documents or autopsies, but, without being sensational, he makes them compelling. Sullenberger, in his Airbus A, continued with Skiles to try to restart the engines, and amid unnecessary and irrelevant voice alarms going off in the cockpit, continued talking to the controller. Teterboro, an airport off to the right in New Jersey and no closer than LaGuardia, was briefly considered, but, like Newark, rejected.

The decision had really been made. The best choice was the Hudson. Ditching is best done with power.

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The general assumption is that the airplane will be going down in the ocean somewhere, perhaps in a bay. With its landing gear up and at close to normal touchdown speed, the airplane is flown parallel to any waves and between them, and the aft section is the first to come into contact with the water.

There have been only a few airliner ditchings and apparently only one without power, in Java, just seven years before Sullenberger's. That plane also ditched into a river and one person, a flight attendant, died. The need for power is obvious: the pilot wants to be in complete control of the descent, holding it off just above a stall and allowing the tail to touch and then smoothly setting the rest of the fuselage down like a boat launched at more than a hundred miles an hour.

The only ditching I know about personally--they were, of course, commonplace during World War II--happened just off Oahu in August I was a lieutenant in a Troop Carrier squadron, and we were awakened in the middle of the night to help search for a B carrying the US ambassador to Japan that had gone down only an hour or so earlier.

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Crossing the Pacific in those days was done in long, slow stages, stopping to refuel at Guam, Kwajalein, and Oahu. It turned out that the refueling at Kwajalein had been careless, the gas tanks had not been "sticked"--their contents visually checked with a calibrated stick, the normal procedure--and the gauges on the instrument panel, more trustworthy in the lower ranges, had suddenly gone down when the airplane was between Johnston Island and Oahu, showing not enough fuel to reach either. The pilot, hoping against hope that they were wrong, continued until one by one the engines quit.

The navigator of the flight, whom I knew, said that they sat listening as the engines went silent and then started down, the altimeter slowly and hesitantly unwinding. The lights were on in the main cabin that had been fitted up for travel, and the plane's landing lights were on. In their brightness, as they neared the water, the large black swells of the ocean could be seen.

The plane started into a trough but then the wingtip hit a wave and, lights still on, as in the Titanic, the plane started up in a big cartwheel. They could hear the rivets singing as they tore from the metal of the wing, the navigator said, and over the plane went, plunging into darkness.

He survived, in a life vest, floating with some others in the ocean until the next day, but the ambassador, George Atcheson, and the draft treaty did not. Sullenberger's first announcement to the cabin, when the die had been cast and they were going to end up in the river, was "This is the captain. Brace for impact. The order came as a surprise to nearly everyone. One man said out loud, "What does that mean?

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The most astute passengers had known for a while that they were descending over the Hudson, and would not be returning to LaGuardia, but some had held out hope that they were headed for Newark instead. Portuguese in origin, both men had studied economics at Cambridge and remained the best of friends.

Yet six out of 10 people on board were miraculously rescued, no thanks to that same leviathan, the Bowbelle. The vessel these men and women were boarding, the Marchioness , had itself an illustrious past. As a steamship, she had been constructed by Salter Bros, of Oxford, in , only eight years after its sister the Hurlingham. She was 85ft long, 14ft wide, 4ft draft, 33 tons in weight, with a permanent crew of two.

Open-decked, and with only an insubstantial awning, the Marchioness joined the Second World War effort as part of Thames Hospital Emergency Transport under its first captain, Joe Mears. It was even one of the little ships sent to evacuate shellshocked British troops from the beaches of Dunkirk at the end of May, In July , there was a collision between sister ship the Bowtrader and the passenger launch Pride of Greenwich.

And the following month it was nearly in a collision with a passenger boat on the same stretch. In fact, he began chatting with his assistant Eddie Quantrill. And had Blayney seen an unfolding emergency on that day or a thousand previous days, his assumed job description was quick dropping of anchor, safeguarding the actual Bowbelle.

Blayney said he thought a distance of feet between the two vessels might have been more comfortable. As with juggernauts on a busy motorway, might is right. Shortly after 1. The Bowbelle was then effectively running it over. So the proactive Marchioness Action Group, at their own expense, took Dr Knapman first to Judicial Review, then to the Court of Appeal, by which time under-siege Knapman was as dismissive of the deceased and their campaigners as they of him.

Disconcertingly, a polythene bag containing these severed hands was, years later, discovered in his office refrigerator. Two separate juries, hearing the same evidence, failed to reach the unanimous verdict asked of them. Were Henderson able to sleep sounder at night from onward, he possibly could not have foreseen a maverick environment secretary and deputy PM, ex-seaman John Prescott, who was persuaded by February to convene the public inquiry which might have been more fitting in The trouble with public inquiries is that they are dependent on memory, judges, terms of reference, then-available paid counsel, and fortitude.

And as if that were not impediment enough, such inquiries are, by definition, unable to jeopardise or condemn any witness. Six-of-one, half-a-dozen of the other. Again nothing, or virtually nothing.

The reason: a clever piece of sophistry. In common with many other lay groups, the Marchioness Action Group had to fight it all the way to 10 Downing Street. Nobody would listen to them, understand them, much less compensate them; much, much less want them. That accepted, weary and wary survivors could not possibly have foreseen the gross insensitivity of deceased loved ones having their hands cut off.

They then had a first coroner implying that the bodies did not belong to them, that they were vexatious. The National Health Service almost uniformly ignored their post-traumatic stress.