There Will Be No Accident Left Behind
I have long lists of accidents that I’d like to know more about and I keep adding new ones, even though there are already more in my files than I could cover in a dozen lifetimes. The problem is that I really hate deleting anything. I’ve tried to do a clear out with the result that this week, I’m posting a number of smaller cases that I couldn’t bear to dismiss without sharing.
On the 21st of December 2013, an Aerolineas Argentinas Boeing 737 was struck by lightning on approach to land. The passenger aircraft, carrying out domestic flight AR-1890, had departed Buenos Aires normally and was 22 nautical miles out from Ushuaia. The lightning struck the radome and the fuselage, leaving black pit marks in the paint and melting the lightning diverter. The aircraft carried on to land normally but was then taken out of service.
There’s not really much more to say about this case but it does form the basis of an interesting article by Weather Guard about lightning protection design, including this video about black marks on the radome:
Boeing 737 Lightning Protection System: How Does It Work?
Mike Caldwell sent me the details of this 1977 accident. I just couldn’t word it better than he already had:
I did help investigate one crash before I got out of the USAF. After midnight one night in April 1977 a KC-135 from Castle AFB, Merced, CA. was doing touch and goes at Beale AFB in Sacramento. Castle was the training base for KC-135s so it was an instructor and students crew. Beale is the largest AFB in the world in terms of size, so they leased a lot of their land to cattle ranchers. On this night the cows had found a gate open and the KC-135 crashed into 23 cows on the runway! The gear sheered off, slowly did a 180 down the runway. The crew was fine: everyone went out the cockpit windows and ran away. So the next day I am there and on the runway was meat, brains, limbs, blood, urine, poo smashed on a concrete runway on a ninety degree day. Every fly in Sutter County was there! What a mess.
The investigation found that there were entries in the Security Police logs multiple times like “Cows getting out, put the wire loop back up over the fence post” but nobody actually did anything to stop cows from getting out. The chief of the Security Police and many others lost their job. This is sort of the Air Force way after crashes: everyone in sight loses his job, almost always the Commander too.
You can read the details (with photographs) on the BAAA site: CRASH OF A BOEING KC-135A-BN STRATOTANKER AT BEALE AFB and there’s a photograph after the crash by Jon Mickley that’s worth a look: Photo of Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker 58-0101
These two pilots survived a mid-air collision in their training planes. The planes cannot quite be said to have survived the encounter but between them, they made one good one. A fantastic story written up in the ABC news:
The Day A Pilot Landed Two Planes in a Paddock
This is really a list of accidents but mainly I’m just bemused that someone at Japan Airlines thought this was an important addition to their corporate website:
Accidents JAL has caused other than Flight 123 Accident
VASAviation has made a great video of the ATC from a Delta and Southwest near mid-air collision.
I have to say, the controller doesn’t come out of this smelling of roses.
Not actually one from the accident file but an interesting news story to keep track of. A twin-engine drone has just finished trials for delivering post from Kirkwall to North Ronaldsay (population: 70), the northernmost of the Orkney islands. The drone is a Windracers ULTRA UAV capable of carrying 100 kg (220 pounds) of mail. The same journey, 56km as the crow flies, would take over 3 hours by ferry.
You can read more about it on the Summer of Drones News article:
Bringing in the Royal Mail
I hope you found these interesting and please feel free to keep sending me new things to look at! Meanwhile, I’ll get to work on a new post for next week.
(Although, woah, I’ve been binge-watching the Netflix series about Formula 1, Drive to Survive, and I could be very tempted to just keep going with that for another week. Lots and lots of crashes and very few fatalities: perfect?)
I think you’ve linked to the wrong accident report for the KC135. It says 7 died
You are right! That’ll teach me to update in a rush. I’ve fixed it.
I was wondering, were there two KC135 accidents?
Maybe I wrote the following before, but I have a vivid memory of a lightning strike myself. Here goes again:
It was in the ‘seventies, I was flying a Cessna 310 PH-STR from Amsterdam to Mahon at the Balearic island of Menorca. We were over the Mediterranean, probably at FL 090. There were some clouds ahead. Incipient CB’s but not very strongly developed, they certainly did not look like the towering giants that can force large aircraft equipped with weather radar to frantically demand diversions “to avoid weather”. There were decent gaps between them.
And so, in clear air, with clouds on our left and right, we were suddenly struck by lightning. “Out of the blue” so to speak.
I clearly saw the ragged flash of lightning strike the left propeller, my passengers observed a more focused beam leave the right wing tip.
Everything seemed normal, no apparent damage to instruments, radios, nav. equipment and the compasses did not show any deviations from the normal either. We had cleared the weather so I decided to continue to our destination.
When I inspected the aircraft there were noticeable burn marks on the fuselage, just beside the port propeller.
And there was a small, perfectly round hole in the starboard wing tip.
Which, in the 310, also is the main fuel tank.
It must have been just above the level of remaining fuel, and I still consider myself lucky that the tank did not explode. Probably the flash was of too short a duration and the air above the AVGAS may have been saturated, with insufficient oxygen to ignite.
Local Iberia mechanics gave the aircraft a look-over. They were not licenced to sign out repairs on light aircraft, but I had not yet entered in the log book. So they checked the electronics, wiring for signs of burns and did an unofficial compass swing.
The hole in the tank was repaired by inserting a rivet and sealant.
Our mechanic in Amsterdam gave it a good look, decided that the Spanish mechanics had done a good job and left the rivet in place. He only touched up the paint job. Recently I was in touch with the then current owner, the 310 is now in the USA as N444ST. I asked him to look and see if the rivet was still there but the aircraft has passed into a new ownership since.
I was once told to take a straight-in on 29 at ORH (medium-size hilltop airport west of Boston) either right before or right after a commercial flight was told to straight-in on 11. Fortunately, the controller there had his s**t much more together than that clown at Reno, despite the small/intermittent number of commercial flights; the (relatively) big boy was down and off the active before my C-150 was near the threshold, but I was watching VERY hard beyond the nose for a minute or so.
Fuller may have deserved his sergeant’s stripes (given that nobody was clear who lost sight of who) for landing two planes at once, but Hansen and Fraser were seriously lucky that the other plane’s engine stopped quickly so they could bail out. I’m also impressed that the plane on the bottom was worth repairing; I wouldn’t have expected a trainer to be so sturdily built, even under the threat of war.
Interesting, Chip. And a wise precaution.
In the ‘sixties I was a member of Lagos Flying club. Nigeria had gained its independence only a few years previously and the imprint of the former British colonial rule was still very much in evidence.
There were quite a few people who had made Nigeria their home before independence. One of them was Charles Impey, the chairman of the club, a wealthy solicitor who owned a Tri-Pacer.
He had lost interest in flying, after an incident. His wife refused to fly any more.
Before I continue with details of the incident, I must give some background information. Maybe it had something to do with it, I am not sure.
The VHF that was installed belonged to the “Fred Flintstone” age of aviation. It was a sort of predecessor of the NAV/COM, called a Narco Omnigator.
Selection of VHF com channels was a bit cumbersome. For transmission the pilot had the choice of a number of pre-selected channels, I believe 12. Each channel had its own fixed crystal, they were chosen to suit the needs of the owner. This was to ensure that the transmissions would be stable and on the proper frequency.
To receive, the pilot had to rotate a little handle which served to tune to the desired frequency. So if a pilot got it wrong, it was quite possible to receive on one, and transmit on a different frequency.
There also was a crude VOR on the same box.
One day Impey and his wife were on approach in Cotonou, in what was then Dahomey, now Benin, when a large shadow appeared overhead.
It actually was an Air Afrique DC8, on approach to the same runway. It probably never even saw the Tri Pacer only a little bit below, and Impey was very, very lucky that he was VFR and obviously must have been below the glide slope that the DC8 was following.
I don’t know if my theory about the radio is correct, but I have flown 5N-ADH on many occasions and from experience know that ATC often sounded like “chshchchchfivechchnovemberhchceltachchotelchchshsh”.
On more than one occasion I could not hear what ATC were trying to tell me, and once I just reported “leaving controlled airspace, bye”.
Another pilot told me later that I had been told to “stay in VMC”.