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watch the crash
watch the crash

See the crash.1971 Los Angeles. DC-9.



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June 6 1971 years. Los Angeles International Airport. Flight 706 «Hughes Airwest» preparing for takeoff. On board passenger 44. Their route - a series of short hops between cities in the states of Utah, Idaho and Washington. The captain of the aircraft - Theodore Nikolayya.


Expert: Theodore Nikolayya flew in the Air Force. He was a senior, and anyone who flew with him, he could be calm. His experience inspired confidence. The co-pilot Price Bruner was also very experienced.


            Los Angeles Airport - One of the busiest in North America. Departing traffic controllers direct aircraft for special corridors. By 1971, the airline flew DC-9 already 5 years. Two powerful turboprop engine of the aircraft makes it ideal for short and medium distances. In 6 2 hours minute flight 706 «Hughes Airwest» flew from Los Angeles. The initial segment of the path led the plane to the west. Being over the Pacific Ocean, he had to turn to the northeast and head to Salt Lake City. Through 4 minutes after takeoff, the co-pilot contacted the control center. In it the main manager Roger Anderson helped the novice operator to gain experience.


Manager: It is not possible to stop and carefully consider every decision. They have to be fast. We need a reaction and pace.


Managers had to withstand a safe spacing between aircraft leaving the Los Angeles and flew to him.


Manager: In addition to the board 706 «Hughes Airwest» manager could speak with five or six aircraft to gain altitude on intersecting courses.


They watched the DC-9 «Hughes Airwest» on the radar. They had markers to watch every plane.


Expert: While the radars are not Automation of, and controllers used in chips. These are small plastic markers with sharp angles. They wrote the call sign of the aircraft, and sometimes his assigned altitude.


Suddenly, the sound of load dispatching emergency transmitter, which reported a possible emergency in the aircraft in their area. Managers did not pay serious attention to it, since it often works randomly. However, at the time the label «Hughes Airwest» disappeared from the radar. Dispatcher said something like: «Hughes Airwest restart the transponder," but there was no answer. Further attempts to contact the aircraft and have not led to success. The case took a bad turn.


Anderson realized the seriousness of the situation when the relationship came flying by military aircraft. Because he reported seeing explosion on the hillside. DC-9 49 to passengers and crew members on board crashed in the mountains of California. All those on board were killed.


crash caused a lot of attention, as the company «Hughes Airwest» owned by Howard Hughes, one of the richest men in America. Therefore, National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSB) sent to investigate the matter of one of the best specialists - Dick Baker.


The place where the plane crashed posed a difficult task for the investigators. It was far from civilization, among steep cliffs. It was difficult to get there. In the nearest town from the crash site the investigators questioned the witnesses of the incident. All the testimonies of the witnesses were similar. They said that they heard the sound of the explosion, and then saw how DC-9 fell to the ground like a leaf. Some claimed to have seen how DC-9 collided in the air with a fighter. Experts tried to find out where another plane could come from. They found out that only in southern California had several air bases, and soon Dick Baker got the right information. On the basis of "El Toro" one plane was missing. Phantom F-4 did not return to the base of the naval infantry. By that time Phantom F-4 was the most advanced fighter available to the military. This double fighter could fly twice as fast as sound and outnumbered all other fighters in maneuverability.


Expert: It was a plane-beast. He had missiles with radar guidance system. You could launch a missile at a target outside its scope.


Witness statements left no doubt. Missing fighter from the "El Toro" and was the fighter that collided with DC-9. Also, some witnesses have reported that the fighter performed aerobatic maneuvers before encountered a civilian aircraft.


Expert: If the pilots performed aerobatics, outside specially designated areas, they violated the rules of military aviation.


The black box of the plane crash


Investigators hoped that radar records prompt them what to do F-4 pilots. However, managers working in the day reported that a fighter did not show up on their radar. Records confirmed it.


After a scuffle in the sky, only the operator onboard radar fighter Christopher Schiess was able to get out of the aircraft. Pilot Zhdeyms Richard Phillips died. Marine Corps sent an expert to help investigators from the NTSB. Then they worked together. The next day after the crash, investigators were able to talk to the only survivor in the crash. They questioned Christopher Schiess of aerobatics. However, he insisted that no aerobatics was notAnd they are not to blame for the collision. Christopher asserted that the overtaking aircraft from one base to another, they have risen to the height m 4500. And to look around, but the coup was carried out with the ailerons on 360 degrees. It was a safe maneuver.


Expert: Phantom F-4 a good view from the cockpit. And if you want to look around enough to tilt, and all at once it becomes clearly visible.


After the coup Schiess used radar to scan the ground beneath them. According to him, at this moment, appearing out of nowhere DC-9 crashed into them. A 5 seconds later, he was catapulted.


The black box of the plane crash.


The fighter was not "black boxes", so the investigators could not verify the words of Schiess. Also it was impossible to find any clues in the wreckage of Phantom F-4. Beat at high speed completely destroyed the smaller of the aircraft. To see the story of a young lieutenant, experts have collected the debris of the crashed DC-9 and tried to restore its fuselage.


            Investigator: We knew that there was a collision in the air. Our aim was, if possible, to restore the plane and help the investigation to understand who someone crashed.


Experts also found the flight recorders from the DC-9. They were severely damaged, however, they are still sent for analysis. Continuing to study the wreckage, investigators found that the most important part was missing. There was no front of the cab. At this time, the data came from the parametric recorder. According to him, DC-9 little maneuvering and did not deviate from the set course. Through 10 days finally destroyed the cabin was found. Her research brought the first serious results.


Judge: After the assembly of the fuselage was possible to see that the keel fighter went straight under the pilots seat and cut off the bow. Phantom F-4 entered DC-9 on the left, just a few meters from its nose. Frankly, F-4 crashed into DC-9, and not vice versa.


            Traces strike showed that a fighter pilot tried to evade a passenger plane. But he is not got. He cut off the nose of the ship, in which there were all the controls and the plane as some witnesses said, was falling like a leaf, until the hit the ground.


Plane crash 1971


Investigators are convinced that Lieutenant Schiess had the wrong idea about who hit whom. Also, his words concerning aerobatics at variance with the testimony of witnesses. With the help of complex calculations experts tried to figure out whether to perform some figures fighter but the rotation around the longitudinal axis. These calculations have shown that the pilots of fighter aircraft conducted directly without endangering others. Looking from the ground was easy to confuse these maneuvers.


Judge: No reason to think that a fighter pilot has been violated or stuntman had no instructions. I am sure that they no longer wanted to go home than play in the sky.


However, questions still remain. Why more nimble Phantom F-4 not left the path of a larger and less agile DC-9. If we pay attention to the weather, it was excellent. Restrictions would not appear. The investigators again questioned Lieutenant Schiess. They learned that the pilots distilled fighter from one base to another, and were forced to fly close to the international airports. But most importantly, the investigators learned - is that the oxygen supply system from the F-4 was faulty. Mechanics based in Nevada could not fix it, and avoid the use of faulty system they were given the order to fly at low altitude. If it was not a problem with the oxygen, they would fly much higher, without interfering with civil aircraft, departing from Los Angeles. But to fly over the mountains of California, they were forced to climb, where there were at the height of the civil aviation. At this time, the pilots looked at the instruments and did not notice a passenger airliner.


Plane crash 1971


Investigators think that because of the sharp climb, pilots were influenced by hypoxia. So they studied the fighter unit. But they were wrong again. Phantom F-4 able to maintain a stable pressure in the cabin. Oxygen starvation was not, and the pilots feel good.


In aviation, there is the basic concept of "To see and avoid". The task of each of the pilot - to look out for other aircraft. Investigators wondered why pilots DC-9 not tried to avoid a catastrophe. They found that the civilian pilots do not teach visual search as thoroughly as military.


Expert: I do not think that an ordinary member of the crew of the airline was aware of the importance of visual search. There have been studies that have shown that the pilots look out the window at least 50% of time, and sometimes just 20%. Basically, they fly on instruments.


Even given the fact that the captain Nikolayya was a former military pilot, he has virtually no chance to notice the approaching fighter. This was due to the fact that the aircraft rapidly approached.


Expert: We were able to calculate that the rate of convergence of the aircraft was 300 m / s. This speed of a bullet flying out of the barrel of the gun 45-caliber.


the place of the crash


Another important factor was the color of the fighter. It was painted in gray-blue color of the sea air. It is difficult to be seen in the sky. That was the purpose of such colors. In addition, the situation is aggravated cabin design DC-9. F-4 was hidden behind the sash. The probability that one of the planes will see, and try to avoid a collision with another, was negligible.




None of the pilots that day had enough time to notice another plane. However, it is the duty of dispatchers to ensure a safe distance between aircraft and to prevent collisions. But they did not see F-4 either. The investigators found out that a pair of trainees worked behind the control room. They were wondering if this could have played a role. Looking through the reports and records of the staff, the experts found that the trainees had excellent qualifications and were supervised. They were more attentive than the other dispatchers who were in the usual, routine setting. Paying attention to the equipment of the dispatch center, the investigators found out that it could not track the rapidly flying fighter.


Expert: Phantom F-4 is moving at a speed of almost 1000 km / h. And only sometimes radar could catch it as a vague speck.


the place of the crash


Investigators concluded that detect the F-4 while he zipped across the sky was almost impossible. Also in 1971, the military pilots were not briefed on the routes of civilian aircraft. In addition, military aircraft was not required to communicate with the civilian air traffic controllers. All this only aggravates the situation.


Investigators came to an alarming conclusion. America's air transportation system had a serious drawback. Organizations representing civil and military aircraft are not kept in touch with each other. Report investigators led to important changes in the rules of air traffic. After this disaster, without exception, all aircraft should be visible on the radar and be accompanied by controllers on the ground. Lessons learned have helped to implement the changes in air traffic control, which still ensure the safety of passengers.


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