Before you start to read my blog, I suggest you take the time to go on the internet and print out the history of “China Airlines Flight 006” and use it as a reference to my comments. It will support my opinion, and my research going back for many years. In most cases, it ain’t the aircraft at fault, it’s the operating flight crew. And, in this particular blog I can only state that it’s the quality of a Boeing aircraft that saved the lives of 274 survivors. The Boeing 747SP-09 (N4522V) that was punished almost beyond belief by the actions of its inept flight crew can only support my first hand experience, as a Boeing Captain, that everyone building and designing these aircraft for half a century and more, deserves our respect and THANKS.
Having served as a designated Naval Aviator for more than twenty years on active duty and as a reserve “week-end warrior,” I’ve flown a lot of different types of aircraft. Grumman was the builder of a long list of service type aircraft WE lovingly referred to as, “built like a tank.” That simply means that in extreme emergencies, if we had to decide to, “bail out or ride it down” I’d ride it down. And, I’m still here to comment.
I was fortunate enough to fly the famous B-17, “Flying Fortress” during my military service as a navy pilot. Even though this aircraft was built for the Air Force, the Navy had them designated as PB1W and I flew them. This was my first experience in Boeing aircraft until later on in my career I became an aircraft commander on a B-707 trained by PanAm. I did things with that aircraft that would amaze even the most critical. But, it’s a matter of record. That is WHY I am taking the time to write this article.
What happened to China Airlines Flight 006 on February 19, 1985 was a nightmare to not only the 251 passengers, but also the 23 crew members who didn’t know what the hell was going on. In reading the report I suggested any dedicated aviation enthusiast do, it will become quite obvious who screwed up…the flight engineer for not following the correct procedures, and the Captain who didn’t know how to interpret what his flight instruments were screaming at him to listen to. Any pilot familiar with any jet engine should know from the start that any flame out at high altitude requires the aircraft to descend below thirty thousand feet to find the oxygen necessary to feed the engine for a re-start. Just read the flight manual. More than that, what started as a simple abnormality of an outboard engine resulted in a compound situation almost tearing the aircraft apart. Hell, the Boeing will not only fly on three engines, it will get you to where you want to go on only two engines! But not if the flight crew is incompetent, as is the case here in reviewing the NTSB report.
In many of my articles during the past several years I have written about the ratio of aircraft incidents and accidents wherein more than ninety percent have been assigned to the category of crew error vs. aircraft malfunction. Having trained and rated hundreds of flight crews in this time frame, I have boxes full of records to support my position. I know the level of performance to expect from any flight crew from the way the aircraft is handled when it leaves the gate.
And, I will make this statement without reservation, IT WILL BE A COLD DAY IN HELL WHEN CAPTAIN “IKE” EISENHAUER will fly as a passenger on any foreign crewed aircraft. And, that is possibly my same feeling when it comes to many of our domestic carriers. No matter what kind of situation is present with an aircraft, NORMAL or ABNORMAL, it is the mandatory responsibility of the Captain to F-T-F-A as the first order of business. This acronym stands for “Fly-The-F..kin-Aircraft” before fumbling around for the cause of the problem. And, above anything else, TURN OFF THE AUTO PILOT and hand fly the aircraft so you can listen to what it is telling you. They always talk to you, if you listen.