CLIPPER 806: The Anatomy of an Air Disaster by John Godson

CLIPPER 806: The Anatomy of an Air Disaster

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Godson, first to tell the calamitous story of the DC-10's faulty cargo doors (The Rise and Fall of the DC-1), takes up the fatal flight of the Pan Am Boeing 707 en route from Auckland, New Zealand, to Pago Pago in January 1974. Only ten of its 101 passengers and crew left the plane alive and only four survived their injuries even though the plane same down in soft jungle earth and the impact of the crash itself killed no one. Why did so many perish? Godson gives multiple, not always satisfactory, answers. Though investigators cited pilot error and thunderstorms, he notes that: the Pago Pago airport was ill-equipped and poorly manned; the VASI (Visual Approach Slope Indicator system) probably malfunctioned during landing; the plane's interior (like the interiors of all commercial aircraft) was lined with plastic which emitted highly lethal hydrogen cyanide seconds after fire started; and, most incredible of all--Pan Am's printed instructions re the emergency doors were backward! The fine print said Push Out; the trick to opening was to Pull In. The outrage, though justified, is conveyed in irritating second-by-second countdowns after impact, and numerous digressions tend to confuse the issue(s). At the same time, the blame is spread too thin to allow for the drawing of conclusions.

Pub Date: March 10th, 1978
Publisher: Contemporary Books