Today’s Illustration: SPEAK UP! It Changed The Industry!

Who:  Captain Malburn “Buddy” McBroom (age 52) — an experienced United pilot of 27 years
First Officer Roderick “Rod” Beebe (45)
Flight Engineer Forrest “Frosty” Mendenhall (41)

What:  The crash of United Flight 173

When: December 28, 1978

Where:  JFK – New York to Portland, Oregon

Other Details:

  • 181 people onboard
  • It all began with a landing gear problem. [1]
  • The flight crew could not determine if the landing gear was extended properly.
  • The crew began to fly a holding pattern near the airport to determine whether the landing gear was down and locked.
  • After an hour into the holding pattern of flying that holding pattern, they could still not assess the situation.

“The flight engineer was giving hints to the captain that the plane was going to run out of fuel. The flight engineer never really spoke up about the fuel situation because the captain wanted to know what was going on with the landing gear. When the captain and the copilot realized how low on fuel they were, they declared an emergency and tried to land at the airport as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the plane ran out of fuel and crash landed in a neighborhood. ” — quora

“At 1744:03, United San Francisco asked, “okay, United one seventy three . . . You estimate that you’ll make a landing about five minutes past the hour. Is that okay?” The captain responded, “Ya, that’s good ball park. I’m not gonna hurry the girls. We got about a hundred sixty five people on board and we . . . want to . . . take our time and get everybody ready and then we’ll go. It’s clear as a bell and no problem.

While there were a lot of obvious warning signs being ignored so far this one is worth noting. In a four engine airplane each fuel flow meter can be thought of as a “15 minute consumption check.” That is, whatever fuel flow you see on one of the four fuel flow meters indicates how much gas the airplane will consume in 15 minutes. Each of their engines was probably indicating around 7,000 PPH at this point and that’s all the gas they had. So assuming the gauges were completely accurate, they didn’t have enough gas to fly from 1744 to “about five minutes past the hour.” — more of these details and conversation are found here code7700

  • 2 crew members and 10 passengers died in the crash.
  • “CRM” has now been adopted throughout the flight industry because of that crash.

“This crash led the airline industry as a whole to adopt Crew Resource Management (CRM). United Airlines was the first to use this in 1981, and over the years after that, airlines around the world have done the same. This method teaches the captain, copilot, and other crew members to communicate during flight. This would lead to less errors and more efficiency between the crew members. . . . In the aviation industry, the captain was usually looked up to. Whatever decision a captain would make would be final without question from the copilot or flight engineer.”

. . . . 

Key Biblical Thoughts:

  • life and death
  • errors / mistakes
  • “for we know” / “knowing”
  • the Gospel
  • evangelism
  • too late
  • arrogance
  • leadership
  • communication

. . . . .

Useful Key Words & Ideas:

  • crashed
  • run out of fuel
  • never spoke up
  • it didn’t need to end this way
  • distractions
  • it’s clear as a bell
  • no problem
  • when they realized
  • communication
  • talking
  • final, without questions
  • knowing and not knowing
  • could have / should have
  • speaking up

. . . . . 

Other Information & Links:

1. “The NTSB investigation revealed that when the landing gear was lowered, a loud thump was heard. That unusual sound was accompanied by abnormal vibration and yaw of the aircraft. The right main landing gear retract cylinder assembly had failed due to corrosion, and that allowed the right gear to free fall.[9] Although it was down and locked, the rapid and abnormal free fall of the gear damaged a microswitch so severely that it failed to complete the circuit to the cockpit green light that tells the pilots that gear is down and locked. Those unusual indications (loud noise, vibration, yaw, and no green light) led the captain to abort the landing, so they would have time to diagnose the problem and prepare the passengers for an emergency landing. While the decision to abort the landing was prudent, the accident occurred because the flight crew became so absorbed with diagnosing the problem that they failed to monitor their fuel state and calculate a time when they needed to return to land or risk fuel exhaustion.” — wiki

2. “A side note. Several years later I went to work as a Deputy Sheriff for a local Sheriff’s Office. I met a deputy who was on UA173 that night. He was bringing his young daughter from Denver for visitation. They were seated in First Class. When it was obvious they may not make it to the airport, flight attendants called for any police officer and firemen on board who would volunteer to man the emergency exits. Billy volunteered and went back to the coach section. The lady whose seat he took went forward and took Billy’sseat beside his daughter, in First Class. During the crash, the cockpit and the first 10rows of seats were demolished, claiming the 10 fatalities…including Billy’s daughter and the female stranger. Billy survived to live with those memories.” — avweb

by Ed KingRey / Vancouver, WA


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