Plane crash survivors tell their stories | World news | The Guardian
Jay is ordered to fly Cessna flight from the States to Sydney, with He contacts Gordon Vette by accident, the pilot of the ANZ , a plane with 88 passengers on board. Add content advisory for parents» Have you guys met ? Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video. More than half the passengers in plane crashes escape with their lives but how ? I was the only woman on board, with nine men. I met firemen coming on to the plane, and they helped me down a canvas chute. It was my 21st birthday, and my parents and I were on our way to Cali, Colombia. One passenger filmed the incredible moment their plane landed in sync with another commercial aircraft at San Francisco International Airport.
I thought I'd remained conscious throughout, but I've since been told I couldn't have. I don't remember coming to, but I remember blackness, and becoming aware that we'd stopped. I tried to wake Margaret, but she was unconscious, as was the woman on the other side of me.
I just thought to myself, "I've got to get out of here. I met firemen coming on to the plane, and they helped me down a canvas chute.
And then I was lying on the ground in the freezing cold and somebody had rigged up a drip. The next thing, I was in the ambulance. I had a fractured skull, a fractured shoulder, broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken femur and my back was very badly damaged. I was in intensive care for a week and then on the wards for another week.
Margaret was in intensive care for longer. She is still in a wheelchair. When I got home and saw the crash on TV, and heard that 47 people had died, that's when it really hit me. I thought everybody had crawled out like me. But I knew about post-traumatic stress through my work, and how important it was to talk about what had happened, to absorb it and allow it to become part of your life. I was back at work by February.
Flying the Cessna Citation M2
I have always been robust. Of course, I was lucky to be able to get up out of my seat. There were many people who were seriously injured, or didn't survive. But going into that situation I was already quite hardened. Those instincts were there. I'd had a hard struggle in life, things had been tough. So the crash was another challenge I had to overcome.
The more anxious and tentative you are going into an experience like that, the more traumatic it's going to be. I don't look back on my life and think, "God, I was in a plane crash. Mercedes Ramirez Johnson, 34 Flight: American Airlines flight Crash landing: A mountain in Buga, Colombia Date: It was around 9pm, we were only about 15 minutes from landing when, without warning, the pilot pulled the nose of the plane straight up into the air.
The cabin was shaking violently, the turbulence was unbelievably strong. And there was panic. My mother was in the row in front. I was next to my father, in the exit row over the wing, but I remember hearing my mother praying.
Her voice calmed me down. I didn't think we were going to crash or die. I just kept thinking, "Hurry up and fix this. I grabbed my father's hand and he held mine really tightly. I put my head in my lap and closed my eyes. When I came round, I was disoriented. Everything was in pieces all around me. The middle of my right thigh was bent and the bottom half of my leg was behind me, but I couldn't feel any pain. I was laying in the aisle, and I could hear a man's voice outside, so I dragged myself towards him.
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He pulled me out. Only four of us survived, all from the middle section of the plane. We waited 18 hours on the mountain for help. It wasn't until I got to hospital that I realised how badly I was injured. My leg was broken, I had injuries to my spinal cord, my back, internal injuries from the seat belt, broken ribs. Reporters came into my hospital room disguised as doctors and nurses and, on live television, told me my parents had passed away.
I've seen footage of that interview, but I don't remember talking to them. It was later discovered that 15 minutes before the plane crashed, the pilots accidentally entered the wrong code into the flight computer.
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They didn't realise we were heading into the mountains until the ground-proximity warning system started to sound. That was when they pulled the plane up. That loud booming sound was the back of the plane hitting the mountain. Fred Jones, 58 Flight: As co-pilot in a Piper Cherokee Crash landing: A Shropshire hillside Date: We passed the Long Mynd, a small mountain range. Suddenly the side windows froze up and you couldn't see through them.
The pilot, Ken Turner, said through the headset, "Feel your controls. Ken was quiet, I was quiet, trying to think what to do. We were hitting the controls, trying to put the heater on, but nothing worked. Then the engine started to miss. The carburettor had frozen up and the fuel had frozen in the lines. We were in freefall. The next thing I heard was Ken putting a Mayday out on the radio. Up my back I felt a cold chill. Neither of us said an awful lot.
We didn't panic, but it was very chilling. We didn't have parachutes. We couldn't open the door in any case, because it opens against the wind. I didn't even try to get into a protective position because, at the speed we were going, it was pointless. If you're on a collision course in a light aircraft and fate isn't with you, you've had it.
I was resigned to the fact that in the 57 seconds it took us to come down, there was nothing we could do.
We kept trying to restart the engine in case some fuel had got through. The only other thing I could do was to try to turn the trim on the winding wheel above my head, to give the plane a bit more drag and slow the speed of the descent. When I was in a coma in the hospital, they say I was raising my right arm and winding, as if adjusting the trim.
All I knew at the time was that I was going to die. I was dropping in a plane at mph from 8,ft. I felt the total shock of realisation that that's it, you've had your chips. You've had a damned good life - I had a business that was basically printing money - but it was going to end that day. All I wanted was a phone.
I just wanted to speak to my two young lads and tell them, "Everything's all right, look after Mummy. Then there was this almighty crunch, which was the port wing catching a tree. It sheared off level with the cockpit, which fell to the ground. I went straight through the dash. My face went through the glass, cut my nose clean off and my eye out. I don't remember the slightest pain. I was trapped in the cockpit, on the hillside.
We were so fortunate the plane didn't burn up or that would have been it, but we'd lost the fuel when we lost the wing. The next thing I remember was waking up three weeks later in Shrewsbury hospital.
I'd lost an eye, my nose, broken my spine, shoulder, jaw and ankle. It's a tribute to the care I got that I was ever able to walk again. Before, I was a businessman. I had my own company that I'd built up. I had a bit of a short fuse. The crash changed my attitude. Every day is a bonus. He outlines the steps you can take to improve your chances of survival.
Keep your shoes on until the aircraft has reached cruising altitude and before the plane starts to come in to land. If you have to get off the aircraft quickly, there may be debris in the cabin and outside, and you'll need your shoes. Get a seat as close to an exit as possible Survivors travel on average within seven rows of a viable exit. If you are within five seat rows of a viable exit, your chances of surviving are greater. Sit in the aisle There is no real advantage to sitting at the front or the back of the plane, but statistics show you have a slightly better survival chance sitting by the aisle than by the window, because you can start moving towards the exit a lot quicker.
Seat your family together In an emergency, families who are separated will try to reunite before they evacuate, causing havoc. Book the seats together or, on a low-cost airline that does not have seat reservations, ask to be moved to sit together. Also make a plan for who is responsible for each child, so there's no confusion in the event of a crash. Practise releasing your seat belt A disturbing number of people had difficulty releasing their seat belts, mainly because they were trying to push buttons, as you would in a car.
I always keep my seat belt done up all the time I'm seated. Count how many seat rows you are from an exit, in front and behind, in case one is blocked. In a dark or smoke-filled environment, you might not be able to see where the exit is.
In past accidents, we've seen people going past viable exits, not realising they were there. When we approach takeoff or landing, I always sit up in my seat and have a good look around me. Practise the brace position There is no point sitting close to an exit if you are physically unable to get out.
The brace position is designed to minimise the chances of you being knocked unconscious or breaking a limb. Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - And Why, has spent years studying how the brain works in disasters such as plane crashes.
She reveals how to think like a survivor. Take the lead We tend to become passive and obedient in crashes. Panic is extremely rare; much more common is silence and docility. In the 70s, there was a series of crashes in which most of the passengers survived the initial impact but were found dead in their seats with their seat belts on. Psychologists found that this reaction is common in any situation where people are in a passive position before an accident happens.
In a plane, you follow orders - you're not in control. People tend to continue playing that role after a crash. Listen to the safety briefing Safety experts have found that the more information passengers have before an accident, the more effective they will be. People who read the safety briefing cards do have a higher chance of survival. This is because, in unfamiliar environments, we tend to shut down. The more familiar you are with your environment - for example, counting the rows between you and the exit - the less likely you are to make mistakes.
Take responsibility In disasters, people tend to group together and become considerate of each other. People who sit in the exit rows can save hundreds of lives if they move quickly. Time and time again we found that passengers don't like to throw the exit door out - it goes against everything in your being. If you prepare yourself, you can override that instinct. Educate yourself It's important to know why you need to respond in certain ways. For example, if oxygen masks are dropped down, they always say put yours on before your child's - if you knew that, in a rapid decompression - which is not unusual - you have 10 seconds before you lose consciousness, then you'd make sure you followed that advice.
It's important to realise they are survivable, and that what you do can make the difference. Victor Pody The business end While the cabin is very enticing, the cockpit of the M2 is equally alluring to the pilot. The first, most striking impression is the absolutely clean lines and minimalist look to the workspace.
There appears to be no clutter, or hard-to-get-at switches. There are two very comfortable pilot seats, two very stylish yokes, a centre pedestal with two sporty thrust levers and a clean, dark instrument panel. The array is brought to life by Adam when he selects the auxiliary battery system via the dispatch switch and it becomes apparent how the streamlined cockpit styling has been achieved.
The need for other system switches and selectors are minimal. The choice of the Garmin G is a very conscious and clever decision. Recognising that most potential owners will be familiar with the prolific Garmin G suite, it is yet another area where the transition has been smoothed out for the new M2 operator.
Seated in the cockpit the arm rest sits at an ideal height and the rather short thrust levers are equally well positioned. One cannot escape the parallel feel of a sports car. There is a sight gauge to reflect the ideal seat position and having adjusted the seat it was sitting dead-centre.
What feels right is just as the manufacturer recommends. The auxiliary battery system is an advantage the M2 has over its predecessor. Without draining the main battery system prior to engine start, the M2 can be powered up, flight plans programmed, and clearances obtained prior to boarding the passengers. So successful is the system that Adam reflects that he has never needed to use a ground power unit GPU in his time operating the Citation M2.
With these preflight tasks completed, we board the passengers bound for Essendon and close the door. The ATIS is accessed, the remaining programming of performance figures are calculated and completed, and the few remaining checks are carried out prior to starting the engines.
Already it is easy to see how this aircraft has been certified for single-pilot operations and now it is time to see how that translates in flight. Taking flight Starting the engines could not be simpler. A push-button starter switch is depressed, initiating the sequence under the watchful eye of the FADEC. On achieving the required N2, the thrust lever is moved forward to the idle setting to introduce fuel and the engine lights off.
The starter cuts out automatically and the whole sequence is displayed clearly on the Garmin engine instrumentation. The pilot must still guard against hot and hung starts, but otherwise the process is fundamentally automatic. With both engines running in a matter of minutes, we are cleared to taxi at Sydney Airport, the parking brake is released, and the flight is underway.
Ground steering is achieved by the rudder pedals, which are equipped with traditional toe brakes. The absence of a tiller is again an example of keeping the format in line with aircraft that the pilot has most likely flown previously. The M2 is simple to taxi and it is already apparent that the brakes and thrust levers on this aircraft are very responsive to inputs and only the lightest of touches is required.
Equipped with anti-skid, the system comes into play a little above 10kt ground speed. The pre-takeoff sequences are minimal and easily managed without overloading a lone pilot. Our takeoff speeds today with five on board are — V1 kt, rotate at kt and V2 of kt. For takeoff, the thrust levers will need to pass through a series of detentes as they are moved forward from idle — through cruise and climb to takeoff — three clicks.
Click — click — click.
Three clicks and takeoff power is clearly displayed and confirmed on the Garmin instrumentation. Responsive is an understatement. The two Williams engines spool up quickly and takeoff thrust is set with the associated sinking into the seat under acceleration. Five hundred feet is upon us and we start the right turn before levelling the wings, accelerating and retracting the flaps.
This is a sports car! Approaching 5,ft and an altitude restriction, the thrust is retarded further, and the rate of climb is reduced to smoothly transition into level flight at kt. The departure happens very quickly and is probably the most challenging aspect of the M2 that a new pilot will need to manage. That being said, the aircraft was without vice throughout the manoeuvre, so adequate training would make the sequence straightforward.
However, with two of us in the cockpit, I was having too much fun to relinquish the handling to the autopilot just yet. Given further climb and vectors, we had soon left the coastline behind and below. The book quotes the Citation M2 reaching a cruise level of FL in 24 minutes at maximum weight and I can readily see how this is achieved.
Eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, I engaged the autopilot to gain a feel for managing the aircraft using the automation. With airliners reporting turbulence in the upper levels, we set to cruise at FL, which is a little lower than standard for a sector length of between Sydney and Melbourne. Consulting the flight manual, we were almost right on the book figures and even a little faster than the predicted TAS.
Like airliners, the M2 also has a passive computer diagnostics maintenance monitoring system that is constantly recording more than 3, parameters into a central maintenance computer, or CMC.
I was treated to a cup of tea and checked with the passengers on their comfort level in the cabin. It was a question that was greeted with smiles all-round. With my headsets removed, the noise levels in the cabin were minimal and normal conversation was not impacted at all. Even so, programming our descent and arrival into Essendon followed a similar logic path to every other type of system that I have operated, although the terminology may vary.
Once entered, everything can be verified by scrolling through the loaded flightplan and confirming the route on the map display. Before the flight, I had calculated that descent should be commenced at roughly double the altitude in miles and minus about eight — give or take. So, for 30,ft, that should be 60 minus eight, or 52 miles. Adam made it even simpler. Another case of simplicity for the single pilot. All too soon we have to descend, and we do so initially in vertical speed mode until we fly onto the vertical path generated by the G Direct tracking and crossing requirements issued by air traffic control are easily programmed and the descent profile adjusted.
Bleeding back to kt by 10,ft, I extend the speedbrake to assess its performance. There is no ability to ease it out gradually, simply a selection of fully extended or retracted and as such, it is not particularly subtle, but it is effective. All of these displays enhance my situational awareness and again I can translate this into benefits for the single pilot.
Levelling at 3,ft the speed easily decelerates through kt, at which time the first stage of flap is selected by pushing the flap lever down and moving it aft to the degree gate. The localiser now turns green as I fly onto it and disengaging the autopilot I intercept the glide slope a short time later.
The aircraft has drift on due to the cold Melbourne winds blowing at right angles to the localiser, but the M2 is responsive in all axes and, when trimmed, only small inputs are required to keep it centred on the ILS.