P_7878

The classic survival story of Speedbird 9

Recommended Posts

Speedbird is the time-honored Callsign for British Airways. The associated Speedbird emblem (the famous black bird in flight logo) which first appeared on their aircraft in 1932, and survived though the many transitions (Imperial Airways->BOAC->British European Airways->British Airways) for 52 years, has been however finally retired in 1984 - but, it does appear in the (older) livery I had to use here in this post. And, regarding this story, many of us would remember this incident when the British Airways 747 (Flight 009) on a scheduled run from London to Auckland, on 24 June 1982, got stricken (and crippled) by the (invisible) volcanic ash thrown up by erupting Mount Galunggung over the Indonesian islands - resulting in the failure of all four engines. The aircraft eventually glided out of the ash cloud, and all engines were restarted, allowing the aircraft to land safely at the Halim International Airport (WIHH) in Jakarta. The actual footage of the 747 gliding down (without any engine power) been enveloped in the luminous plasma of the St Elmo's' Fire is an amazing image captured from this event.

One of the highlights of this incredible story is also the cockpit announcement made by the 41-year-old Captain, Eric Moody, right after not only all the engines have failed, but the initial restart attempts have failed as well, and the plane has already started drifting downwards towards the Indian Ocean. Here are his exact words, "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 them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress" - an unbelievable display of "calm", "grit", and "concern" for the pax, under the most dire circumstances! To this day, this announcement is regarded as "a masterpiece of understatement" by an Airline Captain.

At 37000' cruise level, the number four engine had began surging first and soon flamed out. Less than a minute later, engine two surged and flamed out. Within seconds, and almost simultaneously, engines one and three had also flamed out - all clogged by volcanic ash. Without engine thrust, a 747-200 (the variant involved here) has a glide ratio of approximately 15:1, meaning it can glide forward 15 miles for every mile it drops. The flight crew quickly had determined that the aircraft was capable of gliding for 23 minutes covering 91 nms from its current flight level. During the glide, at 13,500 feet, the aircraft was fast approaching the 11,500 feet mountains on the south coast of Java (if you wish, please refer to the internet sources about Java's topography specifics), which meant, if the aircraft were to unable maintain safe altitude to clear these mountains, they had no option but to turn back into the sea and attempt a risky ditching. Then, as the crew continued to perform engine restart procedures, engine number four finally started, and Moody used its power to reduce the rate of descent. Shortly thereafter, engine three restarted, allowing him to climb slowly past the intervening coastal mountains. Shortly after that, engines one and two were successfully restarted as well. As Flight 9 approached Jakarta, the crew found it difficult to see anything through the windscreen because it had been rendered opaque by sandblasting of the volcanic cloud. The vertical guidance part of ILS was also in-operative. The crew lined up on finals, but the approach had to be flown almost blind. So, how they actually performed the miracle landing is probably another story. For his actions, Captain Moody received Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air, and the crew received various other awards.

Regarding the aircraft for this post, I have used the correct 747 variant (thanks again to CLS 747-200). And, the livery (from Avsim Library) is accurate in its color-scheme - except for the following two exceptions, if you would excuse, - it's "City of Aberdeen" here not "City of Edinburgh", and, of course, the registration is different here (G-BDPV not G-BDXH). For this flight, I have flown the 747-200 model here (via its INS navigation equipment) from (WMKK) Kuala Lumpur (actual Flight 9's previous stop) to (WIHH) Halim International. My flight is un-eventful, but, if one is so inclined, with today's high-fidelity (failure-modeled) 747 SIMs, it's probably possible to simulate the real event to a reasonable extent. Hopefully, still, these pictures here would evoke, at least, some feelings about the actual (and incredibly fortunate) event.Thanks for your interest. [CLS(747-200)/REX]

PuIFvh.png

4jsTnr.png

k0XjVU.png

9efTQC.png

MQtyvX.png

I3H18j.png

himMn8.png

o1GAzG.png

b1stlZ.png

f4TwTy.png

lJYPiM.png

JxY3TV.png

UtStNW.png

8BcQwX.png

pi3HNf.png

3dy6Sw.png

xAMUYD.png

d6w9Ds.png

gF2VD0.png

4oAFL5.png

  • Like 5
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Help AVSIM continue to serve you!
Please donate today!

Lovely shots and a great story.

On the subject of cool-as-a-cucumber captains, in his book Leonard Cheshire relates how in 1940 his Whitley bomber was hit by flak. One of two shells exploded above the cockpit and Cheshire was temporarily blinded by the flash and hydraulic fluid spraying onto his face.  Feeling the liquid on his face, Cheshire assumed it was blood and that his face had been blown off.  The aircraft fell into a steep dive.   The second shell tore a large hole in the fuselage and ignited the aircraft's flares used to illuminate the ground to aid navigation.  This in turn threatened to set fire to the aircraft's internal fuel tank.  One of the crew burst into the cockpit and shouted "Captain, the fuel tank is on fire!",  Cheshire turned to him and said "Well put it out then".  Regaining his senses, Cheshire brought the aircraft back under control at 5,000 feet, returned to the target, dropped his bombs and then went home.

Edited by ailchim
  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brings back memories of my very first 'Across The Pond' flight in that airline in that model.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Really educational and exciting story! And, of course, fascinating pictures. Also thanks ailchim for bringing up the additional story. I hadn't heard of any of them until now.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, ailchim said:

Lovely shots and a great story.

On the subject of cool-as-a-cucumber captains, in his book Leonard Cheshire relates how in 1940 his Whitley bomber was hit by flak. One of two shells exploded above the cockpit and Cheshire was temporarily blinded by the flash and hydraulic fluid spraying onto his face.  Feeling the liquid on his face, Cheshire assumed it was blood and that his face had been blown off.  The aircraft fell into a steep dive.   The second shell tore a large hole in the fuselage and ignited the aircraft's flares used to illuminate the ground to aid navigation.  This in turn threatened to set fire to the aircraft's internal fuel tank.  One of the crew burst into the cockpit and shouted "Captain, the fuel tank is on fire!",  Cheshire turned to him and said "Well put it out then".  Regaining his senses, Cheshire brought the aircraft back under control at 5,000 feet, returned to the target, dropped his bombs and then went home.

Thanks, ailchim. And, yes, I looked up a bit, what an accomplished individual Leonard Cheshire was...highly-decorated pilot and philanthropist...need to pick up a couple of his many interesting books...!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What an unbelievable story (or stories), you almost could have dispensed with the pics of the sim model.  Cool as a cucumber as the saying goes.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, woodhick said:

What an unbelievable story (or stories), you almost could have dispensed with the pics of the sim model.  Cool as a cucumber as the saying goes.

+1

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi folks, thanks for your interest.

As I read a bit more about it, this story and Captain Eric Moody's logical thinking and quick decision-making (throughout the extreme mishap) frankly seems to border on super-human...I've no wish to dramatize the event, but it's worth noting the following additional points, on record. Hope, you enjoy reading through these fascinating details.

  1. When the Flight Engineer (Barry Townley-Freeman) reported the loss of (all four) engines, "They've all gone!", Moody's immediate reaction was, "Four engines do not fail". He had practiced a four-engine failure on the simulator a few months earlier, and the premise was that this would occur when all generators would fail, which would also cause loss of much of the instrumentation (leaving the aircraft on standby electrical power). Yet, the instrumentation appeared to work, and the autopilot remained in control. Because the autopilot remained in control, Eric had time to methodically consider the likely cause of such multiple failure, such as, Internal (e.g. Electrical/Fuel/Icing/...) or possibly External (the invisible Volcanic ash was the real cause).
  2. During the glide, at 26000', the cabin pressure climbed through 10000', and the crew started to don their oxygen masks. When the First Officer (Roger Greaves) removed his mask from the stowage, it fell to pieces in his hand. Eric was then presented with an unenviable choice: Should he continue to descend/glide as slowly as possible and have his co-pilot suffer anoxia, or should he increase the rate of descent till the aircraft was at a more more survivable altitude? He chose the latter and initiated an emergency descent, but he decided not to extend the gear, as instructed in the flying manual, because it opened up the possibility of having to ditch the aircraft with gears extended, should it prove impossible to retract them.
  3. His pre-made decision altitude to return to the sea (for ditching) was 12000' (the intervening mountains being at 11500'). As he was forced to consider the possibility of a dead-stick touchdown on the sea at night, he was also recalling his childhood memories of his father taking him to the Hythe Pier to watch the flying boats land. He knew that flying boats did not fly at night because of the difficulty of judging height above water, and it was nearing 9pm Local/Jakarta time. Although there were guidelines for the water landing procedure, no one had ever tried it in a Boeing 747.
  4. Nearing the 12000' mark, and in dire need of engine power, Eric took a gamble to start the 4th engine first (this engine was the first engine that had failed). The gamble proved successful. The 4th engine finally started, helping him gain some critical control and reduce the descent rate of the aircraft. The other three engines followed soon. And, within 90 seconds of it, they were at the critical (12000') altitude.
  5. They immediately requested clearance to 15000' to clear the high mountains ahead with sufficient margin. However, when they climbed to 15000', the St. Elmo's Fire returned. Therefore, when the throttles were pulled back, the Number 2 engine surged continuously (shaking the aircraft). So, Eric then decided, with reluctance, to shut down that engine. That was also the point where he definitively connected the St. Elmo's fire to the failure of the engines. He further decided to leave the remaining throttles at their current position, and controlled the aircraft speed and descent only by the use of speedbrakes, flaps, and undercarriage.
  6. When they lined up for RWY 24 (please see this RWY marking in one of my shots - it only makes us humble that we're here (merely) pretending to handle aircraft in the SIM!) the front windscreen was already rendered opaque. Glideslope part of the ILS was in-operative. The final descent to touchdown was made using the localizer to stay on the center-line, and by peering through the outer edge of the LHS front window. Eric was able to judge visual descent by the lights of the VASI on the left of the runway, while the other two crew members continuously called out the DMEs, and the respective radio-altitudes they should be at, for each DME, to help Eric adjust the descent rate. When they were over the runway, the whole of the front windscreen was filled with diffuse glare of light. They could not see anything, but it was comforting, because it proclaimed the proximity of the runway. The landing itself was smooth, and Eric felt that the earth seemed to gather them up!
Edited by P_7878
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Honest to God, unbelievable.   Why had a movie never been made of this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dan: Cannot find evidence of a Movie been made and I also do not recall...but I could be wrong...The Discovery Channel and the National Geographic series features episodes though...

And to conclude this post/story, below is a link to an Interview with Moody. Nerves of Steel, is all that can be said...

Good rest of the weekend to all!


https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126069593

SIMON: How did you save your airplane?
MOODY: How did I save it?
SIMON: Yes, sir.
MOODY: Well, it was sheer bloody-mindedness and persistence. We just kept trying. It wasn't me any more than the other two on the flight deck. It was the first officer, co-pilot, it was - and the flight engineer. And they were working equally as hard as me. Although I was actually flying - hand flying the airplane.

....

SIMON: I bet you kissed the earth.
MOODY: No. I don't - I'm not that demonstrative, no.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

W O W......Just ..... W O W!!! Amazing Story and Incredible Post,Thank You Very Much for Sharing 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Folks, thank you! This post has been a learning experience, and I had fun too...The prompts and nudges helped me...🙂...we all can do with a bit of inspiration from such amazing people as Moody (that we can relate to)...

Edited by P_7878
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/31/2019 at 10:35 PM, P_7878 said:

Thanks, ailchim. And, yes, I looked up a bit, what an accomplished individual Leonard Cheshire was...highly-decorated pilot and philanthropist...need to pick up a couple of his many interesting books...!

Yes Cheshire was indeed remarkable. 

I believe he's the only person ever to have been given a VC NOT on the basis of a single act of heroism but for consistent bravery in flying bombers from 1940 right through the war, including the last 2 years when he had to pull strings to avoid being transferred to a desk job because he'd exceed the maximum number of bomber operations aircrew were normally allowed to complete.  When you consider the beginning of his career was in the inadequate aircraft available to the RAF at that time right through to special missions with 617 Squadron towards the end of the war, he did well to survive at all.  He also had  the Distinguished Flying Cross and 3 (yes 3) Distinguished Service Orders!   

After the war, he left the RAF and, following his experiences during the war, including witnessing the Nagasaki atomic bomb, threw himself into charity work for the terminally ill and the disabled.  In 1991 he was appointed as a Life Peer in the UK House of Lords in recognition of his charity work.   

 

 

Edited by ailchim
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I enjoyed a British Airways, Premium Economy non-stop flights from Phoenix, to London, with a month long European Tour between, then non-stop from London back to Phoenix.  I watched Star Wars "Rogue One" coming and going", arguably the best of the series in my opinion though some panned it.  Those flights in May/June 2017 were my last flights and may be my last flights due to my health which hangs on a wire.  But who knows, I have surprised myself before, I was very sick before my 2017 trip and still walked, floated, flew and rode thru Europe for a month and maintained my health til I came home to Phoenix, then I crashed, lol, with the wickedest case of Jet Lag I ever had.

I have loved being able to fly on foreign carriers and board one foreign carrier, an Aeroflot jet that landed at Travis a long time ago, for the START treaty.  I have flown on, in addition to Speedbird, Air Canada, British Caledonian, Austrian, Lufthansa, Avensa, Mexicana, Taesa and AeroMexico.  Add boarding Aeroflot to that and I have my collection of foreign carriers I've had the pleasure to enjoy.

John

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Best of luck John.  Hoping to hear more from you soon.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now