Sunday, July 12, 2009

MSNBC: "Why Planes Crash: Brace for Impact", documentary with Lester Holt

On Sunday July 12, 2009, MSNBC aired a documentary episode, “Why Planes Crash: Brace for Impact”, which much of the narration by Lester Holt. The basic link is this.

The beginning of the program covered the miraculous ditching, without loss of life, in the Hudson River in January 2009, of US Air flight 1549 after a bird strike in two engines. The incident got tremendous media coverage right afterward, just before President Obama’s inauguration.

The next episode concerned an OAS flight in 1970 that ran out of fuel in bad weather after trying to land in St. Martin and then St. Croix. The plane functioned in water, and the pilot survived but was fired. 23 out of 63 die.

A Pan American plane leaving Hawaii in 1956, a prop plane, had to ditch after engine failure. Everyone survived despite breakup of the plane.

Ethiopian Airlines flight 961 is hijacked in 1996, and the documentary simulated the event with animation. The plane hugged the African coast (instead of giving in to demands to fly toward Australia) and ditched with the wing not level, causing the plane to break apart. The actual video is shown. Because the ditching was in shallow water near the coast, 50 out of 175 managed to survive.

The documentary closes with some discussion of pilot training, particularly for young pilots. Holt visited a pilot academy in Daytona Beach, FL., where pilots practice and learn by “muscle memory.”

MSNBC offers a two minute video with Lester Holt getting a hands-on lesson in plane ditching in water.

I've probably flown 200 times in my life commercially, but I've probably never paid that much attention to the safety instructions before takeoff. I've had one private flying lesson, at Red Bird Airport in Dallas in 1982 (because of an American Airlines gift certificate), where I learned about cotner pins and the like, and I've flown in a private plane a few times, in 1970 (with a workplace friend who did a field trip from Princeton or Trenton New Jersey to about Harrisburg PA) and again in 1990, around the Blue Ridge, with an apartment neighbor.

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