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7 Horrifying Aircraft Landings (in which no one died)

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Many people board an airplane flight thinking that if anything goes wrong, they will probably die. We board anyway, knowing that the odds of something going wrong are pretty small. In these seven stories, hundreds of passengers thought it was the end for them, but thanks to skilled pilots and crew members (and a fair amount of luck), they all survived to fly again. If they ever wanted to.

1. British Airways Flight 38

Beijing to London
16 crew, 136 passengers
January 17, 2008

On approach to Heathrow airport, the plane began to drop faster than it should. The engines had lost all power, and pilot Peter Burkill had to glide the Boeing 777 in to avoid crashing into the houses of West London. Observers on the ground were horrified at how low the plane came in. There was not enough time to warn passengers before the plane hit the grass short of the runway, and crashed. Four crew members and 15 passengers were injured, but there were no fatalities. The most serious injury was a broken leg. The cause of the crash was later found to be ice crystals in the fuel. Procedures have since been developed to deal with such an occurrence. Image by Marc-Antony Payne.

2. British Airways Flight 9

London to Auckland
15 crew, 248 passengers
June 24, 1982

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On the leg of the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Perth, the Boeing 747 ran into a volcanic eruption! Mount Galunggung threw a cloud of volcanic ash into the air, enveloping the plane. The ash was glowing with heat, and sulphuric smoke filled the plane. One by one, all four engines failed. Captain Eric Moody made an announcement:

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get it under control. I trust you are not in too much distress.

Moody put the plane into a dive to restore oxygen to the cabins. One by one, the four engines came back to life, although one failed again. The crew had to land the plane at Jakarta, even though visibility was bad due to the damaged windscreen. However, the landing was perfect and no one was injured in the incident. An investigation revealed that the cloud of volcanic ash did not show up on radar because it lacked moisture. Pilots are now trained to look for signs of volcanic eruption.

3. FedEx Flight 705

Memphis to San Jose
3 crew, 1 hijacker
April 7, 1994

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Fedex flight engineer Auburn Calloway hitched a ride on the DC10 cargo plane, but did not plan to land safely. He planned to attack the crew members, crash the plane into the Fedex terminal, and let his family collect on his life insurance. Calloway knew he was soon to lose his job at Fedex and wanted to punish the company as well as provide for his family. Calloway entered the cockpit and attacked first officer Jim Tucker and flight engineer Andy Peterson with a claw hammer. Then he went for captain David Sanders, but the other two men, despite injuries, fought back and the three drove Calloway out of the cockpit. He returned with a speargun. Tucker and Peterson were seriously injured, and could barely fight back. As Sanders tried to control Calloway, Jim Tucker rolled the plane to throw Calloway off balance.

The DC-10 was executing a barrel-roll at nearly 400 miles per hour—something the aircraft had never been designed to do. Peterson and Sanders were shouting "Get him! Get him!" to each other, as the three struggling men were tossed about the galley area, alternately weightless and pressed upon by three times their weight in G forces. By now, the aircraft was inverted at 19,700 feet, and the alarmed air traffic controllers in Memphis were desperately calling for Flight 705

Tucker put the plane through more bizarre maneuvers to avoid more violence. He sent the plane into a dive past 500 miles per hour -faster than any DC10 had ever flown before. This was not intentional; Tucker's head injuries made his right hand useless at the controls. He managed to pull out of the dive. By this time, the Memphis terminal had cleared all runways for an emergency landing, although the ground crew did not know what was happening in the plane. Tucker landed the plane with Sanders and Peterson holding Calloway down on the floor. Calloway received a life sentence for air piracy and attempted murder. All three members of the flight crew sustained life-changing injuries and can no longer fly commercially.  The story was told in a book called Hijacked. Pictured is David Sanders receiving emergency treatment.

4. Air Canada Flight 143

Montreal to Edmonton
8 crew, 61 passengers
July 23, 1983

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The Air Canada flight took off as scheduled despite the notice that the fuel gauges were not working. Although there were manual checks, there wasn't enough fuel to complete the flight. At 41,000 feet, fuel pressure indicators went off, and captain Bob Pearson decided to divert to Winnipeg. One engine gave out, then the other, and the Boeing 767 was just gliding. The tiny airport at Gimli was closer than Winnipeg, so the jumbo jet aimed in that direction. Pearson did not know that one of the airstrips at Gimli had been converted to a public racetrack and was in use that day. As the plane landed and skidded across 2,900 feet, spectators scattered as fast as they could. The ten injuries from the rough landing were minor. This Boeing 767 later became known as the Gimli Glider. There was not much danger of a fire upon landing, as all three fuel tanks on the plane were completely empty. An investigation of the incident found that the pilots and mechanics were at fault and that airline management contributed to the chain of errors that led to the plane taking off with insufficient fuel.

5. British Airways Flight 5390

Birmingham, England to Malaga, Spain
6 crew, 81 passengers
June 10, 1990

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The quality of every part of an airplane is crucial to safety. Before flight 5390 took off, the left cockpit windscreen had been replaced by a technician who used the wrong size bolts. At 17,300 feet, the window blew out. Captain Tim Lancaster had just removed his seat belt and had set the plane to autopilot. The sudden loss of pressure sucked Lancaster out the window! His body was outside the plane while his feet became entangled in the controls, which disconnected the autopilot. Flight attendant Nigel Ogden grabbed the captain and tried to pull him back into the plane. Copilot Alistair Atcheson took control of the plane and sent it into a dive to an altitude where the pressure could be stabilized. Chief steward John Heward helped Ogden hold onto the pilot's legs. They could not pull him in due to the raging wind and cold temperatures at 11,000 feet. The crew, assuming Lancaster was dead, considered letting the pilot's body go, but decided that was too risky as it could be sucked into an engine or damage a wing. Besides, he was partially blocking the hole where the window once was. Atcheson landed the plane at Southampton, despite the fact that the airport's runway was shorter than recommended for the BAC 1-11 aircraft. Then the unexpected happened -captain Lancaster came to! He was hospitalized with a broken right arm and wrist and a broken left thumb as well as frostbite and shock. Minor injuries, considering he had ridden on the outside of an airliner at high altitudes for 18 minutes. Lancaster was the only person injured in the incident. He recovered and returned to flying a few months later.

6. China Airlines Flight 006

Taipei to Los Angeles
February 19, 1985
25 crew, 243 passengers

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Ten hours into its flight, one of the Boeing 747's engines failed. The pilots did not follow procedures to balance the remaining engines and the plane went into a dive from 41,000 feet. Passengers were exposed to a force of 5Gs as the plane dove 30,000 feet! They dropped six miles in two minutes. Pieces of metal flew off the plane as it rolled and dived. The pilots could not orient themselves with the horizon until they were under the clouds at 11,000 feet, and regained control by 9,600 feet. The failed engine was restarted, and the aircraft made an emergency landing in San Francisco. There were only two people injured in the incident. Jet lag is thought to have been a contributing factor in the incident.

7. US Airways Flight 1549

New York to Charlotte, North Carolina
5 crew, 150 passengers
January 15, 2009

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Just after takeoff from LaGuardia airport, the Airbus 320 ran into a flock of geese. Birds were sucked into the engines and they lost thrust. Visibility was down because of birds splattered against the windscreen. Captain Chesley Sullenberger requested a return to LaGuardia, then realizing they wouldn't make it, requested a landing at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Within seconds, Sullenberger knew they wouldn't make it that far either, and guided the plane into the Hudson River. The crew evacuated the passengers, who stood on the wings until they were picked up by the many commercial, private, and rescue boats who responded. Seventy-eight people had minor injuries, mostly from the evacuation. It was later called the most successful plane ditching ever.

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Big Questions
How Does Autopilot Work on an Airplane?
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How does autopilot work on an airplane?

Joe Shelton:

David Micklewhyte’s answer is a good one. There are essentially a few types of features that different autopilots have. Some autopilots only have some of these features, while the more powerful autopilots do it all.

  • Heading Hold: There’s a small indicator that the pilot can set on the desired heading and the airplane will fly that heading. This feature doesn’t take the need for wind correction to desired routing into account; that’s left to the pilot.
  • Heading and Navigation: In addition to holding a heading, this version will take an electronic navigation input (e.g. GPS or VOR) and will follow (fly) that navigation reference. It’s sort of like an automated car in that it follows the navigator’s input and the pilot monitors.
  • Altitude Hold: Again, in addition to the above, a desired altitude can be set and the aircraft will fly at that altitude. Some autopilots have the capability for the pilot to select a desired altitude and a climb or descent rate and the aircraft will automatically climb or descend to that altitude and then hold the altitude.
  • Instrument Approaches: Autopilots with this capability will fly preprogrammed instrument approaches to the point where the pilot either takes control and lands or has the autopilot execute a missed approach.

The autopilot is a powerful computer that takes input from either the pilot or a navigation device and essentially does what it is told to do. GPS navigators, for example, can have a full flight plan entered from departure to destination, and the autopilot will follow the navigator’s guidance.

These are the majority of the controls on the autopilot installed in my airplane:

HDG Knob = Heading knob (Used to set the desired heading)

AP = Autopilot (Pressing this turns the autopilot on)

FD = Flight Director (A form of navigational display that the pilot uses)

HDG = Heading (Tells the autopilot to fly the heading set by the Heading Knob)

NAV = Tells the autopilot to follow the input from the selected navigator

APR = Tells the autopilot to fly the chosen approach

ALT = Tells the autopilot to manage the altitude, controlled by the following:

VS = Vertical Speed (Tells the autopilot to climb or descend at the chosen rate)

Nose UP / Nose DN = Sets the climb/descent rate in feet per minute

FLC = Flight Level Change (An easy manual way to set the autopilot)

ALT Knob = Used to enter the desired altitude

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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History
15 Fascinating Facts About Amelia Earhart
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Amelia Earhart was a pioneer, a legend, and a mystery. To celebrate what would be her 120th birthday, we've uncovered 15 things you might not know about the groundbreaking aviator.

1. THE FIRST TIME SHE SAW AN AIRPLANE, SHE WASN'T IMPRESSED.

In Last Flight, a collection of diary entries published posthumously, Earhart recalled feeling unmoved by "a thing of rusty wire and wood" at the Iowa State Fair in 1908. It wasn't until years later that she discovered her passion for aviation, when she worked as a nurse's aide at Toronto's Spadina Military Hospital. She and some friends would spend time at hangars and flying fields, talking to pilots and watching aerial shows. Earhart didn't actually get on a plane herself until 1920, and even then she was just a passenger.

2. SHE WAS A GOOD STUDENT WITH NO PATIENCE FOR SCHOOL.

After working with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in Toronto, Earhart took pre-med classes at Columbia University in 1919. She made good grades, but dropped out after just a year. Earhart re-enrolled at Columbia in 1925 and left school again. She took summer classes at Harvard, but gave up on higher education for good after she didn't get a scholarship to MIT.

3. ANOTHER PIONEERING FEMALE AVIATOR TAUGHT EARHART HOW TO FLY.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Neta Snook was the first woman to run her own aviation business and commercial airfield. She gave Earhart flying lessons at Kinner Field near Long Beach, California in 1921, reportedly charging $1 in Liberty Bonds for every minute they spent in the air.

4. EARHART BOUGHT HER FIRST PLANE WITHIN SIX MONTHS OF HER FIRST FLYING LESSON.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

She named it The Canary. The used yellow Kinner Airster biplane was the second one ever built. Earhart paid $2000 for it, despite Snook's opinion that it was underpowered, overpriced, and too difficult for a beginner to land.

5. AMY EARHART ENCOURAGED HER DAUGHTER'S PASSION. HER FATHER, ON THE OTHER HAND, WAS AFRAID OF FLYING.

Earhart's mom used some of her inheritance to pay for The Canary. She was a bit of an adventurer herself: the first woman to ever climb Pikes Peak in Colorado.

6. EARHART HAD A LOT OF ODD JOBS.

In addition to volunteering as a nurse's aide, Earhart also worked early jobs as a telephone operator and tutor. Earhart was a social worker at Denison House in Boston when she was invited to fly across the Atlantic for the first time (as a passenger) in 1928. At the height of her career, Earhart spent time making speeches, writing articles, and providing career counseling at Purdue University's Department of Aeronautics. Oh, and flying around the world.

7. SHE WASN'T SURE ABOUT MARRIAGE, BUT SHE DEFINITELY BELIEVED IN PRE-NUPS.

When promoter George Putnam contacted Earhart about flying across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, it was her first big break ... and the beginning of their love story. The two began a working relationship, which soon turned into attraction. When Putnam's marriage to Dorothy Binney fell apart, he eventually proposed to Earhart. She said yes, albeit reluctantly.

Earhart wasn't worried about safeguarding financial assets so much as she wanted the two of them to maintain separate identities. Earhart asked Putnam to agree to a trial marriage. If they weren't happy after a year, they'd be free to go their separate ways, no hard feelings. He agreed. They lived happily until her disappearance.

8. SHE WROTE ABOUT FLYING FOR COSMOPOLITAN.

In 1928, Earhart was appointed Cosmopolitan's Aviation Editor. Her 16 published articles—among them "Shall You Let Your Daughter Fly?" and "Why Are Women Afraid to Fly?"—recounted her adventures and encouraged other women to fly, even if they just did so commercially. (Commercial flights date back to 1914, but they wouldn't really take off until after World War II.)

9. FIRST LADY ELEANOR ROOSEVELT WAS SO INSPIRED BY EARHART THAT SHE SIGNED UP FOR FLYING LESSONS.

The two became friends in 1932. Roosevelt got a student permit and a physical examination, but never followed through with her plan.

10. EARHART WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO GET A PILOT'S LICENSE FROM THE NATIONAL AERONAUTIC ASSOCIATION (NAA).

That was in 1923, when pilots and aircrafts weren't legally required to be licensed. Earhart was the sixteenth woman to get licensed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), which was required to set flight records. Still, the FAI didn't maintain women's records until 1928.

11. SHE ACCOMPLISHED A LOT OF "FIRSTS."

Earhart eventually became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger (1928) and then solo (1932) and nonstop from coast to coast (1932) as a pilot. She also set records, period: Earhart was the first person to ever fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland, Los Angeles to Mexico City, and Mexico City to Newark, all in 1935.

What do John Glenn, George H.W. Bush, and Amelia Earhart have in common? They all earned an Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross. But only Earhart was the first woman—and one of few civilians—to do so.

12. SHE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST CELEBRITIES TO LAUNCH A CLOTHING LINE.

Amelia Earhart Fashions were affordable separates sold exclusively at Macy's and Marshall Field's. The line's dresses, blouses, pants, suits, and hats were made of cotton and parachute silk and featured aviation-inspired details, like propeller-shaped buttons. Earhart studied sewing as a girl and actually made her own samples.

13. THE U.S. GOVERNMENT SPENT $4 MILLION SEARCH FOR EARHART.

At the time, it was the most expensive air and sea search in history. Earhart's plane disappeared July 2, 1937. The official search ended a little over two weeks later on July 19. Putnam then financed a private search, chartering boats to the Phoenix Islands, Christmas Island, Fanning Island, the Gilbert Islands, and the Marshall Islands.

14. THE SEARCH ISN'T OVER.

There are several theories about what happened to Earhart's plane during her last flight. Most people believe she ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Others believe she landed on an island and died of thirst, starvation, injury, or at the hands of Japanese soldiers in Saipan. In 1970, one man even claimed that Earhart was alive and well and living a secret life in New Jersey.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has explored the theory that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan lived as castaways before dying on Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro, in the western Pacific. Over the years, they've found a few potential artifacts, including evidence of campfire sites, pieces of Plexiglas, and an empty jar of the brand of freckle cream that Earhart used.

In early July 2017, a photo surfaced that seemed to confirm the theory that Earhart and Noonan crashed and were captured by Japanese soldiers, but that photo was quickly debunked.

15. TODAY, ANOTHER AMELIA EARHART IS MAKING HISTORY.

In 2014, another pilot named Amelia Earhart took to the skies to set a world record. The then-31-year-old California native became the youngest woman to fly 24,300 miles around the world in a single-engine plane. Her namesake never completed the journey, but the younger Earhart landed safely in Oakland on July 11, 2014. We think "Lady Lindy" would be proud.

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