Originally posted in Marine Corps Gazette, September 2007
BURIAL AT SEA…..
BY LT COL GEORGE GOODSON, USMC (RET)
In my 76th year, the events of my life appear to me, from time to time, as a series of vignettes. Some were significant; most were trivial. War is the seminal event in the life of everyone that has endured it. Though I fought in Korea and the Dominican Republic and was wounded there, Vietnam was my war.
Lt. Col. George Goodson (Ret) and family
Now 42 years have passed, and thankfully, I rarely think of those days in Cambodia , Laos, and the panhandle of North Vietnam where small teams of Americans and Montagnards fought much larger elements of the North Vietnamese Army.
Instead I see vignettes: some exotic, some mundane:
*The smell of Nuc Mam
*The heat, dust, and humidity
*The blue exhaust of cycles clogging the streets
*Elephants moving silently through the tall grass
*Hard eyes behind the servile smiles of the villagersBeauty and the Beast streaming
*Standing on a mountain in Laos and hearing a tiger roar
*A young girl squeezing my hand as my medic delivered her baby
*The flowing Ao Dais of the young women biking down Tran Hung Dao
*My two years as Casualty Notification Officer in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland
It was late 1967. I had just returned after 18 months in Vietnam. Casualties were increasing. I moved my family from Indianapolis to Norfolk, rented a house, enrolled my children in their fifth or sixth new school, and bought a second car. A week later, I put on my uniform and drove 10 miles to Little Creek, Virginia. I hesitated before entering my new office. Appearance is important to career Marines. I was no longer, if ever, a poster Marine. I had returned from my third tour in Vietnam only 30 days before. At 5’9″, I now weighed 128 pounds, 37 pounds below my normal weight. My uniforms fit ludicrously, my skin was yellow from malaria medication, and I think I had a twitch or two.
I straightened my shoulders, walked into the office, looked at the nameplate on a Staff Sergeant’s desk and said, “Sergeant Jolly, I’m Lieutenant Colonel Goodson. Here are my orders and my Qualification Jacket.” Sergeant Jolly stood, looked carefully at me, took my orders, stuck out his hand; we shook and he asked, “How long were you there, Colonel?” I replied “18 months this time.”
Jolly breathed, “You must be a slow learner Colonel.” I smiled. Jolly said, “Colonel, I’ll show you to your office and bring in the Sergeant Major. I said, “No, let’s just go straight to his office.” Jolly nodded, hesitated, and lowered his voice, “Colonel, the Sergeant Major. He’s been in this job two years. He’s packed pretty tight. I’m worried about him.” I nodded.
Jolly escorted me into the Sergeant Major’s office. “Sergeant Major, this is Colonel Goodson, the new Commanding Office. The Sergeant Major stood, extended his hand and said, “Good to see you again, Colonel.” I responded, “Hello Walt, how are you?”
Jolly looked at me, raised an eyebrow, walked out, and closed the door. I sat down with the Sergeant Major. We had the obligatory cup of coffee and talked about mutual acquaintances. Walt’s stress was palpable. Finally, I said, “Walt, what the h-ll’s wrong?” He turned his chair, looked out the window and said, “George, you’re going to wish you were back in Nam before you leave here. I’ve been in the Marine Corps since 1939. I was in the Pacific 36 months, Korea for 14 months, and Vietnam for 12 months. Now I come here to bury these kids. I’m putting my letter in. I can’t take it anymore.”
I said, “Okay Walt. If that’s what you want, I’ll endorse your request for retirement and do what I can to push it through Headquarters Marine Corps.” Sergeant Major Walt Xxxxx retired 12 weeks later. He had been a good Marine for 28 years, but he had seen too much death and too much suffering. He was used up.
Over the next 16 months, I made 28 death notifications, conducted 28 military funerals, and made 30 notifications to the families of Marines that were severely wounded or missing in action. Most of the details of those casualty notifications have now, thankfully, faded from memory.
Four, however, remain.
MY FIRST NOTIFICATION…………
My third or fourth day in Norfolk, I was notified of the death of a 19 year old Marine. This notification came by telephone from Headquarters Marine Corps. The information detailed:
*Name, rank, and serial number.
*Name, address, and phone number of next of kin.
*Date of and limited details about the Marine’s death.
*Approximate date the body would arrive at the Norfolk Naval Air Station.
*A strong recommendation on whether the casket should be opened or closed.
The boy’s family lived over the border in North Carolina, about 60 miles away. I drove there in a Marine Corps staff car. Crossing the state line into North Carolina , I stopped at a small country store / service station / Post Office. I went in to ask directions.
Three people were in the store. A man and woman approached the small Post Office window. The man held a package. The Store owner walked up and addressed them by name, “Hello John. Good morning Mrs. Cooper.”
I was stunned. My casualty’s next-of-kin’s name was John Cooper!
I hesitated, then stepped forward and said, “I beg your pardon. Are you Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper of (address.)
The father looked at me – I was in uniform – and then, shaking, bent at the waist, he vomited. His wife looked horrified at him and then at me. Understanding came into her eyes and she collapsed in slow motion.
I think I caught her before she hit the floor.
The owner took a bottle of whiskey out of a drawer and handed it to Mr. Cooper who drank. I answered their questions for a few minutes. Then I drove them home in my staff car. The store owner locked the store and followed in their truck. We stayed an hour or so until the family began arriving.
I returned the store owner to his business. He thanked me and said, “Mister, I wouldn’t have your job for a million dollars.” I shook his hand and said; “Neither would I.”
I vaguely remember the drive back to Norfolk. Violating about five Marine Corps regulations, I drove the staff car straight to my house. I sat with my family while they ate dinner, went into the den, closed the door, and sat there all night, alone.
My Marines steered clear of me for days. I had made my first death notification
Weeks passed with more notifications and more funerals. I borrowed Marines from the local Marine Corps Reserve and taught them to conduct a military funeral: how to carry a casket, how to fire the volleys and how to fold the flag.
When I presented the flag to the mother, wife, or father, I always said, “All Marines share in your grief.” I had been instructed to say, “On behalf of a grateful nation….” I didn’t think the nation was grateful, so I didn’t say that.
Sometimes, my emotions got the best of me and I couldn’t speak. When that happened, I just handed them the flag and touched a shoulder.
They would look at me and nod. Once a mother said to me, “I’m so sorry you have this terrible job.” My eyes filled with tears and I leaned over and kissed her.
Six weeks after my first notification, I had another. This was a young PFC. I drove to his mother’s house. As always, I was in uniform and driving a Marine Corps staff car. I parked in front of the house, took a deep breath, and walked towards the house. Suddenly the door flew open, a middle-aged woman rushed out. She looked at me and ran across the yard, screaming “No! No! No! No!! I hesitated. Neighbors came out.
I ran to her, grabbed her, and whispered stupid things to reassure her. She collapsed. I picked her up and carried her into the house. Eight or nine neighbors followed. Ten or fifteen minutes later, the father came in followed by ambulance personnel. I have no recollection of leaving.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download
The funeral took place about two weeks later. We went through the drill. The mother never looked at me. The father looked at me once and shook his head sadly.
One morning as I walked into the office, the phone was ringing. Sergeant Jolly held the phone up and said, “You’ve got another one, Colonel.” I nodded, walked into my office, picked up the phone, took notes, thanked the officer making the call and hung up. Jolly, who had listened, came in with a special telephone directory that translates telephone numbers into the person’s address and place of employment.
The father of this casualty was a longshoreman. He lived a mile from my office. I called the Longshoreman’s Union Office and asked for the business manager. He answered the phone, I told him who I was, and asked for the father’s schedule. The business manager asked, “Is it his son?” I said nothing. After a moment, he said, in a low voice, “Tom is at home today.” I said, “Don’t call him. I’ll take care of that.” The business manager said, “Aye, Aye Sir,” and then explained, “Tom and I were Marines in WWII.”
I got in my staff car and drove to the house. I was in uniform. I knocked and a woman in her early forties answered the door. I saw instantly that she was clueless. I asked, “Is Mr. Smith home?” She smiled pleasantly and responded, “Yes, but he’s eating breakfast now. Can you come back later?” I said, “I’m sorry. It’s important. I need to see him now.” She nodded, stepped back into the beach house and said, “Tom, it’s for you.” A moment later, a ruddy man in his late forties, appeared at the door. He looked at me, turned absolutely pale, steadied himself, and said, “Jesus Christ man, he’s only been there three weeks!”
Months passed. More notifications and more funerals. Then one day while I was running, Sergeant Jolly stepped outside the building and gave a loud whistle, two fingers in his mouth and held an imaginary phone to his ear.
Another call from Headquarters Marine Corps. I took notes, said, “Got it.” and hung up. I had stopped saying “Thank You” long ago.
Me, “Eastern Shore of Maryland . The father is a retired Chief Petty Officer. His brother will accompany the body back from Vietnam.” Jolly shook his head slowly, straightened, and then said, “This time of day, it’ll take three hours to get there and back. I’ll call the Naval Air Station and borrow a helicopter. And I’ll have Captain Tolliver get one of his men to meet you and drive you to the Chief’s home.”
He did, and 40 minutes later, I was knocking on the father’s door. He opened the door, looked at me, then looked at the Marine standing at parade rest beside the car, and asked, “Which one of my boys was it, Colonel?” I stayed a couple of hours, gave him all the information, my office and home phone number and told him to call me, anytime. He called me that evening about 2300 (11:00 PM). “I’ve gone through my boy’s papers and found his will. He asked to be buried at sea. Can you make that happen?” I said, “Yes I can, Chief. I can and I will.”
My wife who had been listening said, “Can you do that?” I told her, “I have no idea. But I’m going to die trying.” I called Lieutenant General Alpha Bowser, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, at home about 2330, explained the situation, and asked, “General, can you get me a quick appointment with the Admiral at Atlantic Fleet Headquarters?” General Bowser said,” George, you be there tomorrow at 0900. He will see you. I was and the Admiral did. He said coldly, “How can the Navy help the Marine Corps, Colonel.” I told him the story. He turned to his Chief of Staff and said, “Which is the sharpest destroyer in port?” The Chief of Staff responded with a name.
The Admiral called the ship, “Captain, you’re going to do a burial at sea. You’ll report to a Marine Lieutenant Colonel Goodson until this mission is completed.” He hung up, looked at me, and said, “The next time you need a ship, Colonel, call me. You don’t have to sic Al Bowser on me.” I responded, “Aye Aye, Sir” and got out of his office in a hurry.
I went to the ship and met with the Captain, Executive Officer, and the Senior Chief. Sergeant Jolly and I trained the ship’s crew for four days. Then Jolly raised a question none of us had thought of. He said, “These government caskets are air tight. How do we keep it from floating?” All the high priced help including me sat there looking dumb. Then the Senior Chief stood and said, “Come on Jolly. I know a bar where the retired guys from World War II hang out.” They returned a couple of hours later, slightly the worse for wear, and said, “It’s simple; we cut four 12″ holes in the outer shell of the casket on each side and insert 300 lbs. of lead in the foot end of the casket. We can handle that, no sweat.”
The day arrived. The ship and the sailors looked razor sharp. General Bowser, the Admiral, a US Senator, and a Navy Band were on board. The sealed casket was brought aboard and taken below for modification. The ship got underway to the 12-fathom depth.
The sun was hot. The ocean flat. The casket was brought aft and placed on a catafalque. The chaplain spoke. The volleys were fired. The flag was removed, folded, and I gave it to the father. The band played “Eternal Father Strong to Save.” The casket was raised slightly at the head and it slid into the sea. The heavy casket plunged straight down about six feet. The incoming water collided with the air pockets in the outer shell. The casket stopped abruptly, rose straight out of the water about three feet, stopped, and slowly slipped back into the sea. The air bubbles rising from the sinking casket sparkled in the in the sunlight as the casket disappeared from sight forever.
The next morning I called a personal friend, Lieutenant General Oscar Peatross, at Headquarters Marine Corps and said, “General, get me out of here. I can’t take this anymore.” I was transferred two weeks later. I was a good Marine but, after 17 years, I had seen too much death and too much suffering. I was used up.
Vacating the house, my family and I drove to the office in a two-car convoy. I said my goodbyes. Sergeant Jolly walked out with me. He waved at my family, looked at me with tears in his eyes, came to attention, saluted, and said, “Well done, Colonel. Well done.”
I felt as if I had received the Medal of Honor!
Advanced Qualification Program (AQP)
The Advanced Qualification Program (AQP) training system is developed using a systematic training program methodology. AQP is a voluntary, data-driven, alternative means of compliance to the ‘traditional’ regulatory requirements under 14 CFR Parts 121 and 135 for training and checking.
Under the AQP performance-based regulatory framework of 14 CFR Subpart Y, FAA is authorized to vary from traditional prescriptive requirements under 14 CFR 121 Subparts N and O (i.e., ‘traditional training’), subject to justification of an equivalent or better level of safety. As part of the systematic development process, AQP requires a front-end analysis of both training and operational data to establish proficiency objective requirements for all aspects of training.
Unlike traditional aviation training, AQP provides a multitude of training and safety benefits including data-driven improvement and program flexibility; integration of CRM; crew evaluation; planned hours (i.e., ‘trained-to-proficiency’); and scenario-based training and evaluations.
Technical assistance and policy support provided by the Training and Simulation Group
Email Air Transportation Division or call (202)-267-8166
AQP Summary Topics
What and Who
AQP is a voluntary, alternative method for qualifying, training, and certifying crewmembers and operations personnel, such as:PilotsFlight AttendantsInstructors and EvaluatorsDispatchersOther operations personnel (as applicable)
AQP is an alternative to ‘traditional’ training programs, which are defined under part 121 Subparts N & O - and are based on a prescriptive rule that assumes a “one size fits all” approach to training.AQP encourages innovation in the methods and technology that are used during instruction and evaluation.AQP is a process (or performance-based rule) that allows for customized training to the certificate holder’s unique demographic and flight operation.
AQP was established to allow a greater degree of regulatory flexibility in the approval of innovative training programs.AQP improves flight crewmember performance by providing alternative means of compliance with traditional training rules and promotes the innovative use of modern technology for flight crewmember training.
The AQP methodology directly supports the FAA’s goals for safety enhancement, through data-informed, and data-driven improvement.Catalyst for this alternative method of compliance proposal was airline training management familiarity with instructional systems design (ISD), and proficiency-based training experience from military flight training programs.
AQP was introduced in 1990 under SFAR 58 special rule.AQP regulatory codification was published in 2005 as 14 CFR Part 121 Subpart Y.
In contrast to original traditional training rules from the late 1950’s and updated in the early 1970’s with the advancement of aircraft simulation technologies, and a recognized need to introduce CRM to training programs.
90% of Large 121 carriers(over 1000 pilots) utilize AQP100% of Medium size 121 carriers( 501-999 pilots)5% of Small size 121 carriersOver 90% of U.S. airline pilots train under AQP
95% of small 121 carriers(less than 500 pilots) choose compliance with traditional training rulesTo date, there are 71 active 121 carriers43 of those carriers still train under traditional Subparts N&O
Shinji Maeda is a Shin-Issei who is active in our community as founder and president of Aero Zypangu Project, a 501c3 non-profit organization he founded with his supporters. Its mission is “to provide opportunities and experiences that inspire hope, strength, and joy in people with disabilities, in youngsters, and in their families through aviation activities.” Through his motivational lectures and discovery flight lessons, Shinji delivers his message, “Nothing is impossible,” through his own life experiences.
Shinji began dreaming about becoming a pilot when he was a kindergartener.
“The view of Tokachi Plain looking down from my flight back from Tokyo, which was my first trip out from Hokkaido, was so beautiful. I remember I was convinced to become a pilot to see this kind of scenery all the time.”
As a child, Shinji loved looking up at the sky from his father’s farmland, thinking about becoming a pilot. After graduating from junior high school, he left his parents’ home to attend Japan Aviation High School in Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo. From there, he was admitted to the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the College of Science and Technology, Nihon University. As he was striving toward his dream, he experienced a major setback in his first year of college. He was hit by a car on the street and lost sight in his right eye.
In Japan, you cannot be a pilot with sight in only one eye.
“Many adults back then advised me that it’s almost impossible for people with disabilities to play an active role in the aviation industry. I had been thinking about life only as a pilot, so I was totally lost,” says Shinji.
He even thought about suicide. But harsh words from his high school teacher, who called him from Yamanashi, saved Shinji.
His teacher told him, “Even if you die, the world will just forget about you and nothing will change. I will forget you, too. If you die here, you are the loser. The only thing that happens is that your parents will cry for you throughout the rest of their lives.”
All his friends from high school and college also supported him in chasing his dream of becoming a pilot.
After graduating from Nihon University, he moved to the United States to earn a master’s degree at Embry-Riddle Aviation University, Prescott, Arizona, with the aim of finding a job in the aviation industry as his career.
“I realized that I cannot pursue my dream if I stay in Japan. I did research to find colleges outside of Japan which offer master’s programs in risk management, which I started to become interested in after I suffered from the car accident. Embry-Riddle was the only option.”
After graduating from Embry-Riddle, he started working as a technical coordinator at the North American Headquarters of ShinMaywa Industries, Ltd. in California.
“This very first opportunity for me to work in the aviation industry gave me great understanding about aerospace production and its industry,” says Shinji.
After working a few years at ShinMaywa, he was headhunted by his client at Boeing.
“It was a great surprise for me. I never thought that I could get a job at Boeing!”
Now he has been working as a manufacturing operation specialist at Boeing for 13 years.
“My job is to analyze how to efficiently build the wings of airplanes and manage the process,” says Shinji.
He has been successfully working in the aviation industry which he was told was “impossible.”
Another turning point for him came when he was on a long-term business trip in Japan for Boeing.
“It was more than ten years after I moved to the United States. But I realized that the sky in Japan had not changed. There were no pilots with disabilities in Japan,” says Shinji.
He also questioned how most engineers in the Japanese aviation industry had no experience flying aircraft. He wanted to change this situation. When he returned to the United States, he obtained a license as a commercial pilot. He had previously obtained licenses as a non-commercial pilot and a flight instructor. Although he had already started delivering motivational lectures at different educational institutions, he then launched the Aero Zypangu Project to officially start his activities. With his instructor’s license, he began leading “Discovery Flights” where anyone can hold the control stick on his airplane and experience flying.
“My message with Discovery Flight is ‘you can be a pilot!’”
It does not have to be only for those who want to become pilots.
“It is important to give confidence to young people through this ‘I can do it’ experience,” explains Shinji.
He also started to warm up to the concept of a round-the-world flight mission to spread his “you can do it” message even further.
Carrying out the round-the-world flight as a pilot and aviation engineer
“Lucy” is the aircraft that Shinji took off in on May 1. She is a Beechcraft Bonanza made in 1963.
“I purchased her from my former boss at ShinMaywa. He gave me a very reasonable price after I told him about my round-the-world flight mission,” says Shinji.
It was a long process after the purchase.
“It took about four years. I worked with professional engineers who are experts in different areas to retrofit her. We replaced her engine, propeller, navigation system, etc.”
This process was possible because of his career background.
“Honestly, I used to be worried about whether or not I could really go around the world with such an old aircraft,” he confesses. “At that time, I met Adrian Eichhorn, who made a successful round-the-world flight with the same Beechcraft Bonanza 1963 aircraft in 2016.”
When Shinji contacted Adrian, his reply was very curt, as he assumed Shinji was not serious like many other inquirers.
But after looking at Shinji’s serious plan in progress, Adrian messaged Shinji, “Sorry, I wish I had cooperated earlier. I will help you out.”
After that, Adrian frequently visited Seattle from his base in Washington, D.C. to help Shinji and his mechanics team retrofit Lucy.
With each retrofit, Shinji became fascinated by Lucy’s old charm.
“Her aircraft body smells like the age of 1963. Through her, I can feel what the engineers in that era used to think when building the aircraft. It is quite interesting as an engineer. She is a beautifully crafted airplane.”
Now, it is an age where new technology is always highlighted and appraised.
However, “I feel this mission can also demonstrate the beauty of retrofitting old things. I want to prove that this old aircraft can go around the world if refurbished to the best condition.”
Flying around the world is a big project. It includes over ten hours of intercontinental travel from Canada to Ireland, as well as from Japan to Seattle. There will be many risks involved. Does Shinji have any worries?
“Of course, there are risks. However, since I am not visiting dangerous areas such as war zones, all risks can be under control. I can minimize risks by preparing for them,” says Shinji.
During the four-year preparation period, he did all he could do to retrofit Lucy to the best possible condition. Through the connection with Adrian, who used to work as a commercial pilot, Shinji was able to conduct various flight trainings for possible accidents. His flight route was thoughtfully planned, including refueling spots and safe accommodations. Adrian gave Shinji much advice from his previously successful mission.
Obtaining visas to enter different countries and understanding COVID-19 safety regulations were also part of his preparations.
“So, once I leave for the mission, all I have to do is keep flying.”
Message for the next generation
In 2019, Shinji’s father, who always encouraged him to pursue his dream, passed away.
With his wife Makiko and their children. Shinji met her at work, as Makiko also used to work in the aerospace industry.
“When I was so worried about financing, as I spent on Lucy as much as I would to buy a house, I earnestly told her about giving up the round-the-world mission. Makiko was mad at me and told me ‘don’t give up just because of money.’” Makiko is the most understanding person of Shinji’s projects.
“When he was lying in the hospital bed, my father told me, “I finally understand how you felt when you were hospitalized for months after the car accident. It must have been hard for you as an 18-year-old young man. Everyone faces their own obstructions, small and large. You have overcome yours and your dreams have come true. Tell more people what you did so others can do it, too.
“This was the last message from my father and it made me determined to complete the round-the-world flight mission.”
“I think young people can feel hopeful by learning from a one-eyed ojisan (old man in Japanese) like me enjoying my own freedom, flying around the world, pursuing my dream,” remarks Shinji. “I indeed want to have young people especially with handicaps and disabilities to have dreams and step forward with them.”
His passion and energy simply pursuing his dreams flying around-the-world on his own should surely inspire people in the current pandemic recovery period.
"An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted” - Arthur Miller
From War On The Rocks:
DON’T FAIL AMERICA’S ALLIES: THE PLIGHT OF AFGHANS LEFT BEHIND
President Joe Biden failed America’s allies — and my family — in 1975. He should not repeat his mistake in 2021.
My mother was a Vietnamese national who risked her life working for the U.S. naval attaché in Saigon. My father was a South Vietnamese army officer. In April of 1975, as communist forces closed in on Saigon, the fate of my family and tens of thousands of other Vietnamese allies hung in the balance as President Gerald Ford and congressional leaders debated.
Today, America faces a similar challenge as the Taliban control the capital of Afghanistan, the United States evacuates its embassy, and the lives of America’s Afghan allies and their families hang in the balance.
Back then Ford showed remarkable leadership by appealing to the American people on television, despite popular opinion against the evacuation. Lacking a mandate from Congress, the president used executive authority to rescue 130,000 Vietnamese allies in a single month, relocating them to Guam. My family and I were among those liberated.
Ford faced marked opposition from key members of Congress, including then-Sen. Joe Biden. On April 23, the same day my family boarded a U.S. Air Force C-141 Starlifter for Guam, Biden took to the Senate floor and stated, “The United States has no obligation to evacuate [one], or 100,001, South Vietnamese.”
Had Biden prevailed in his view that day, I and 130,000 other Vietnamese who had worked hard for the United States — and their families — would have suffered the fate that befell those not rescued: reeducation camps, torture, and death. I would have likely grown up an orphan in communist Vietnam instead of an immigrant in a free America.
Biden seemed to soften his view because in May 1975, he supported legislation to bring Vietnamese allies to the United States. In 2020, he went as far to express his explicit support for this cause in an op-ed published in a Vietnamese newspaper.
After coming to the United States, we lived with a sponsor family before settling into a home in Tumwater, Washington. Growing up, I learned about my family’s exodus and felt a deep sense of gratitude and obligation to the United States and to the men and women who served in Vietnam. In order to repay that debt, I attended West Point, followed by five years on active duty. I continued my service as a lawyer, eventually working in the White House as an associate counsel to President George W. Bush. When I left the White House, I recommissioned as a U.S. Army captain and served in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom with a U.S. Army special forces company.
In Afghanistan, my fellow soldiers and I placed our lives in the hands of Afghan interpreters, analysts, and other Afghan allies daily. In turn they risked their lives for us. Like the communists in Vietnam, the Taliban in Afghanistan hold a dim view of those Afghans who worked alongside Americans. Several Afghan allies were killed during my time in Afghanistan by Taliban forces. I vividly remember one who told us that helping Americans would cost him his life.
Days later he was found killed, the cell phone he used to communicate with our company shoved in his mouth.
Just weeks ago, I was contacted by one of my Afghan allies, Jabar, who now resides in Kabul with his family. Jabar and thousands of others were startled by Biden’s decision to formally withdraw from Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11 of this year. While the United States has a system in place to process special immigrant visa applicants like Jabar, it is simply broken. Current estimates place the backlog at more than 18,000 applicants along with over 53,000 dependents.
And now, it is too late. With Kabul under Taliban control, America’s Afghan allies are out of time.
I fear every day for the safety of Jabar and his family. I cannot help but see in them my own family’s uncertain fate 46 years ago.
Once again history has put Biden in a position where he needs to decide where he stands. On July 14, his administration announced that it would airlift Afghan allies and their families through Operation Allies Refuge. However, announcing an airlift is not the same as completing one. To date, only 1,200 of the estimated 18,000 eligible Afghan allies and their families have been airlifted to safety. Tens of thousands of Afghan allies and their families still face persecution, torture, or death.
Biden and his administration can and need to do better. My family and I were rescued from communist forces in 1975 because Ford provided the leadership and resources to overcome the tremendous bureaucratic and logistical hurdles involved in evacuating 130,000 Vietnamese allies within weeks. Biden has failed to do the same in 2021.
What Biden should do is, using existing authorities, immediately designate America’s Afghan allies and their families as parolees. These parolees should then be marshalled at Kabul under the protection of rapidly deployed U.S. forces, before evacuation to a location outside Afghanistan for care and processing. The full and vast capabilities of the U.S. Air Force supplemented by contractor aircraft should be used to complete this urgent airlift. The administration can then determine, in coordination with Congress, which individuals will be resettled in the United States and implement a plan to do so properly. Finally, Biden should immediately and clearly state his public support for this effort and back his words by empowering the secretary of state and secretary of defense to take all actions necessary for the United States to fulfill its moral obligation to its Afghan allies.
There is still time to save Jabar, his family, and the tens of thousands of Afghan allies like them who risked their lives alongside soldiers like myself.
France Hoang commissioned twice as a U.S. Army officer, served as an associate White House counsel to President George W. Bush, and is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of boodleAI and a partner at the law firm of FH+H.
Body-for-LIFE has become a best-selling book in the United States, and millions of Americans have regained control of their lives through this fitness/nutrition program. In May 2000, as a fat 55-year-old with a 36-inch waist, I accepted the challenge. Eighty-four days later, I was fitter than at any time in my life— including my time as a college gymnast—and I’d lost 25 pounds of fat and sported a 32-inch waist.
At the end of the year, I was honored by being selected first runner-up for the men-over-50 category, becoming one of the 37 champions selected from the 700,000 people who had entered the 2000 challenge.
Over the past 2 years, I have helped hundreds of airline employees, mostly pilots, complete their own transformations. Almost all of them initially felt that this program would be great for someone with regular, predictable hours but would just be incompatible with the airline lifestyle. I’d like to pass on some tips for success that worked for me and, subsequently, for them. And I’d like to share some thoughts on what to do when you find yourself on a layover in the Bates Motel, with ‘nary a workout facility within a country mile.
Actually, when you think about it, probably no group of people in the world should be more successful on a fitness/nutrition program than airline pilots. At the heart of the program is the concept of setting goals and then following a specific plan to reach those goals.
And that is something we airline pilots do for a living! On every flight we have a goal, such as safely and efficiently flying from Chicago to Denver. And we have a specific plan to do it, such as flying the O’Hare departure, direct DBQ, then J84 to SNY, then picking up the LANDR arrival to DEN.
On the way, we may have to take a reroute for weather, or deviate around buildups, but we still do what we’re told: we salute smartly and, overall, follow the magenta line.
So following a simple plan that tells us when and what to eat, and when to exercise is really a walk in the park for us. It’s in our genes! The only hard part is deviating around the buildups (ground delays that cause our crew day to stretch out ad infinitum, missing crew meals, getting to the hotel after the exercise room has closed, etc.).
The first part of your mission, should you accept it, is deciding on realistic goals. This can be tricky. If you choose goals that are too easy to attain, when you finish the 12 weeks you’ll feel little sense of accomplishment. And if you select goals that are unreachable, you’ll feel like a failure.
Let me suggest that you choose goals that seem slightly out of reach, goals that, if you heard of someone else achieving them, would really impress you. And remember, no hard-and-fast rule says you can’t change your goals along the way. Just as you sometimes divert to an alternate rather than continue to the destination, you may amend your goals if they appear to be too easily achieved once you’re under way.
The more specific the goals are, the easier measuring your progress will be. For example, "I want to lose weight" is a goal that is easy to measure, but not specific enough to judge your success. If you lose one pound in 12 weeks, were you successful? How about 10 pounds? A better goal would be "I want to lose 10 pounds of fat in the next 12 weeks." That’s a measurable, achievable goal. Similarly, "I want to lose 2 inches off my waist" is measurable and achievable.
Because 61 percent of the adult American population is overweight, I assume that at least one of your goals is to lose fat. We frequently fall into the trap of equating losing weight with losing fat, and I’d like to discuss this for a moment.
Many of the yo-yo diets that have been popular in the past (and successful in the short term and very unsuccessful in the long term) emphasize losing weight, rather than losing fat. Much of their short-term success is based on losing water weight and muscle. Because muscle weighs more than fat, you can indeed lose a lot of weight by allowing your muscle mass to deteriorate. And since muscles hold water, you will also lose weight from water loss.
Losing fat is a different matter. Fat is not very dense, so you need to lose a lot of fat before you notice it on the scale. But you will quickly notice it by the way your clothes fit. So I suggest you measure your bodyfat percentage, rather than your weight. You can do this rather easily with a set of plastic calipers, available for about $20 from most health food stores. In my opinion, the absolute best way to use a scale is to stand squarely on both feet in front of the scale. Carefully bend over and lift the scale with both hands. Now, carry it over to the garbage can and throw the damned thing out! Since you probably won’t do this, at least get into the habit of measuring your bodyfat at the same time you weigh yourself.
Eating six small, balanced meals each day can be problematic when you’re flying a trip. This works out, roughly, to a meal every 3 hours. Even on a short domestic flight, you’ll probably be sitting in the cockpit for at least 3 hours counting preflight and ground taxi times. Unless you eat right before enplaning and are lucky enough to have minimal ground delays, you will probably need to eat some of your meals in the cockpit.
A little planning here goes a long way. If your airline boards customized crew meals, you might be able to eat a meal that’s right along the lines of the program, courtesy of your employer. For example, at United, I order the lighter-choice chicken crew meal. It’s a chicken breast about the size of my outstretched palm (one of the standard Body-for-LIFE measurements), a scoop of rice about the size of my clenched fist (the other standard measurement), and lots of vegetables. Now, that’s a perfect meal!
In this program, a meal ideally will consist of equal portions of protein and carbohydrates, plus lots of vegetables. A portion is an amount about the size of your outstretched palm or clenched fist. Of course, you won’t always get a crew meal. That’s where the planning comes in. A lot of meal replacement bars are available and are excellent. Be sure to look at the nutritional information and make sure that the bar contains about equal portions of protein and carbohydrate. Most of the "weight loss" bars do not qualify, as they contain lots of carbs and very little protein.
Another option is ready-to-drink shakes made by EAS, the sponsor of the Body-for-LIFE Transformation Challenge. These are slightly smaller than a soft drink can, and I usually have a few stashed in my flight bag, along with a few bars. I also have at least three for each day of my trip packed in my suitcase. The residual advantage of this is that you get a great workout just lifting your bag at the beginning of the trip!
Healthy eating on your layover can also present a challenge. If you find yourself out in the boonies along a motel strip with only fast food available, you need to get creative. Eating a healthy meal at virtually every fast-food chain in America is possible, but you need to pay attention to what’s on the menu.
First, you need to forget about anything that’s fried—no french fries, no fried chicken patties, no onion rings. Next, be sure to order your sandwich without mayonnaise. If you want to spice up the taste a bit, add catsup yourself. Get all the lettuce and tomatoes on your sandwich you can. It will give you a feeling of satiety, and make your meal healthier. I opt for the Chicken McGrill without mayo at McDonald’s when I’m forced to go the fast-food route. Most of the yuppie restaurant chains have something relatively healthy on their menus. For example, at Outback Steakhouse, the salmon dinner is an excellent choice: a large salmon filet, a nice assortment of vegetables, and a rice pilaf.
The only problem is that it’s about twice the size of an ideal meal. As soon as I get my entrée, I cut it in half and put one part of it in a takeout box. If you have a refrigerator in your room, you can save it for later. I suppose another choice is to split the meal with your flying partner, if he or she goes to dinner with you. Of course, if you pay for it, you’ll probably find yourself expelled from the Captains Club!
When it comes to alcohol on layovers, I’ve learned to "Just Say No." It doesn’t take many beers to completely ruin your nutrition program. If you can nurse one drink for the entire evening, fine; otherwise, I suggest you go without. I’ve found that the workout facilities at my layover hotels have ranged from fabulous to dismal. Because the basis of the exercise program is to preplan your workouts in advance, this can present a problem. If you’re set for a lower-body day, for example, and no weights of any kind are in the workout room, maybe you need to swap around your lower body and cardio days. Just like deviating around the buildup, we may need to deviate in our workout plan. Trust me, missing one workout in its proper order will not sidetrack your program.
What if you arrive in the evening at the hotel, the one with the fabulous workout room, only to find the room closed? Well, that’s when the in-room workout plan takes over. You can get a terrific workout right in your room with very little in the way of equipment. I strongly suggest you include a stretch band and a jump rope in your suitcase. They take up very little space and can work wonders in a pinch. Unless you’re on the ground floor, I don’t recommend jumping rope in your room, but you can usually find someplace in the hotel where you won’t disturb anyone.
Jumping rope is a skill unto itself, so you may have some difficulty initially, but it’s a great cardio workout. A typical 20-minute rope jumping session burns about 250 calories. Stretch-band exercises are limited only by your imagination. You can usually improvise a stretch-band exercise that’s pretty close to the free-weight or machine exercise you were planning on doing. Let’s not forget the two pieces of weightlifting equipment you brought with you: your suitcase and your flight bag. Remove some manuals or add the hotel phone book, and you can customize your flight bag to just about any weight you want. This adjustable weight can be used for one-arm rows, curls, two-hand presses, and squats. Don’t forget dips between chairs, with your feet on the bed. And as long as you have a few feet of floor space, you can get a great ab workout by doing crunches with your feet up on the bed, and a great tricep/chest workout by doing pushups with your feet on the bed.
Frankly, although workout rooms are fun to go to just to stand around and flex and look in the mirrors that are everywhere, I’d be lying if I said I needed them for a complete workout. If you’re longing to regain that lost fitness of your youth, you could not start at a better time than now. And, in my opinion, you can get no better all-around program for doing it than Body-for LIFE. You can find additional information on fitness for the airline pilot at www.airlinefitness.com. Start now, and in less than 3 months, you could be looking at a slimmer, fitter you staring back in the mirror.
Flight 401 departed JFK Airport in New York on Friday, December 29, 1972, at 21:20 EST, with 163 passengers and 13 crew members on board.
The flight was routine until 23:32, when the plane began its approach into Miami International Airport. After lowering the gear, First Officer Stockstill noticed that the landing gear indicator, a green light identifying that the nose gear is properly locked in the "down" position, had not illuminated. This was later discovered to be due to a burned-out light bulb. The landing gear could have been manually lowered, nonetheless. The pilots cycled the landing gear, but still failed to get the confirmation light.
Loft, who was working the radio during this leg of the flight, told the tower that they would discontinue their approach to their airport and requested to enter a holding pattern. The approach controller cleared the flight to climb to 2,000 ft (610 m), and then hold west over the Everglades.
The cockpit crew removed the light assembly, and Second Officer Repo was dispatched to the avionics bay beneath the flight deck to confirm via a small porthole if the landing gear was indeed down. Fifty seconds after reaching their assigned altitude, Captain Loft instructed First Officer Stockstill to put the L-1011 on autopilot. For the next 80 seconds, the plane maintained level flight. Then, it dropped 100 ft (30 m), and then again flew level for two more minutes, after which it began a descent so gradual it could not be perceived by the crew. In the next 70 seconds, the plane lost only 250 ft (76 m), but this was enough to trigger the altitude warning C-chord chime located under the engineer's workstation. The engineer (Repo) had gone below, and no indication was heard of the pilots' voices recorded on the CVR that they heard the chime. In another 50 seconds, the plane was at half its assigned altitude.
As Stockstill started another turn, onto 180°, he noticed the discrepancy. The following conversation was recovered from the flight voice recorder later:Stockstill: We did something to the altitude.Loft: What?Stockstill: We're still at 2,000 feet, right?Loft: Hey—what's happening here?
Less than 10 seconds after this exchange, the jetliner crashed:Cockpit area microphone (CAM): [Sound of click]CAM: [Sound of six beeps similar to radio altimeter increasing in rate]CAM: [Sound of initial impact]
The location was west-northwest of Miami, 18.7 mi (30.1 km) from the end of runway 9L. The plane was traveling at 227 miles per hour (197 kn; 365 km/h) when it hit the ground. With the aircraft in mid-turn, the left wingtip hit the surface first, then the left engine and the left landing gear, making three trails through the sawgrass, each 5 ft (1.5 m) wide and over 100 ft (30 m) long. When the main part of the fuselage hit the ground, it continued to move through the grass and water, breaking up as it went.
The TriStar's port outer wing structure struck the ground first, followed by the No. 1 engine and the port main undercarriage. The disintegration of the aircraft that followed scattered wreckage over an area 1,600 ft (500 m) long and 330 ft (100 m) wide in a southwesterly direction. Only small fragments of metal marked the wingtip's first contact, followed 49 ft (15 m) further on by three massive 115 ft (35 m) swaths cut through the mud and sawgrass by the aircraft's extended undercarriage before two of the legs were sheared off. Then came scattered parts from the No. 1 (port) engine, and fragments from the port wing itself and the port tailplane. About 490 feet (150 m) from the wingtip's initial contact with the ground, the massive fuselage had begun to break up, scattering components from the underfloor galley, the cargo compartments, and the cabin interior. At 820 ft (250 m) along the wreckage trail, the outer section of the starboard wing tore off, gouging a 59-foot-long (18 m) crater in the soft ground as it did so. From this point on, the breakup of the fuselage became more extensive, scattering metal fragments, cabin fittings, and passenger seats widely.
The three major sections of the fuselage—the most intact of which was the tail assembly—lay in the mud towards the end of the wreckage trail. The fact that the tail assembly—rear fuselage, No. 2 tail-mounted engine, and remains of the empennage—finally came to rest substantially further forward than other major sections, was probably the result of the No. 2 engine continuing to deliver thrust during the actual breakup of the aircraft. No complete cross-section of the passenger cabin remained, and both the port wing and tailplane were demolished to fragments. Incongruously, not far from the roofless fuselage center section with the inner portion of the starboard wing still attached, lay a large, undamaged and fully inflated rubber dinghy, one of a number carried on the TriStar in the event of an emergency water landing. The breakup of the fuselage had freed it from its stowage and activated its inflation mechanism.
Robert "Bud" Marquis (1929–2008), an airboat pilot, was out frog gigging with Ray Dickinsin (1929–1988) when they witnessed the crash. They rushed to rescue survivors. Marquis received burns to his face, arms, and legs—a result of spilled jet fuel from the crashed TriStar—but continued shuttling people in and out of the crash site that night and the next day. For his efforts, he received the Humanitarian Award from the National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation and the "Alumitech – Airboat Hero Award", from the American Airboat Search and Rescue Association.
In all, 75 survived the crash—67 of the 163 passengers and eight of the 10 flight attendants. Despite their own injuries, the surviving flight attendants were credited with helping other survivors and several quick-thinking actions such as warning survivors of the danger of striking matches due to jet fuel in the swamp water and singing Christmas carols to keep up hope and draw the rescue teams' attention, as flashlights were not part of the standard equipment on commercial airliners at the time. Of the cockpit crew, only flight engineer Repo survived the initial crash, along with technical officer Donadeo, who was down in the nose electronics bay with Repo at the moment of impact. Stockstill was killed on impact, while Captain Loft died in the wreckage of the flight deck before he could be transported to a hospital. Repo was evacuated to a hospital, but later succumbed to his injuries. Donadeo, the lone survivor of the four flight-deck occupants, recovered from his injuries. Frank Borman, a former NASA astronaut and Eastern's senior vice president of operations, was awoken at home by a phone call explaining of a probable crash. He immediately drove to Eastern's Miami offices and decided to charter a helicopter to the crash site as the swampy terrain made rescue difficult and Eastern had not heard any news of progress in rescue efforts. There he was able to land in a swampy patch of grass and coordinate rescue efforts. He accompanied 3 survivors on the helicopter to the hospital including a flight attendant and passenger who lost her baby in the crash.
Most of the dead were passengers in the aircraft's midsection. The swamp absorbed much of the energy of the crash, lessening the impact on the aircraft. The mud of the Everglades may have blocked wounds sustained by survivors, preventing them from bleeding to death. However, it also complicated the survivors' recuperation, as organisms in the swamp caused infection, with the potential for gas gangrene. Eight passengers became infected; doctors used hyperbaric chambers to treat the infections. All the survivors were injured; 60 received serious injuries and 17 suffered minor injuries that did not require hospitalization. The most common injuries were fractures of ribs, spines, pelvises, and lower extremities. Fourteen survivors had various degrees of burns.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation discovered that the autopilot had been inadvertently switched from altitude hold to control wheel steering (CWS) mode in pitch. In this mode, once the pilot releases pressure on the yoke (control column or wheel), the autopilot maintains the pitch attitude selected by the pilot until he moves the yoke again. Investigators believe the autopilot switched modes when the captain accidentally leaned against the yoke while turning to speak to the flight engineer, who was sitting behind and to the right of him. The slight forward pressure on the stick would have caused the aircraft to enter a slow descent, maintained by the CWS system.
Investigation into the aircraft's autopilot showed that the force required to switch to CWS mode was different between the A and B channels (15 vs. 20 lbf or 6.8 vs. 9.1 kgf, respectively). Thus, the switching to CWS in channel A possibly did not occur in channel B, thus depriving the first officer of any indication the mode had changed (channel A provides the captain's instruments with data, while channel B provides the first officer's).
After descending 250 feet (76 m) from the selected altitude of 2,000 feet (610 m), a C-chord sounded from the rear speaker. This altitude alert, designed to warn the pilots of an inadvertent deviation from the selected altitude, went unnoticed by the crew. Investigators believe this was due to the crew being distracted by the nose gear light, and because the flight engineer was not in his seat when it sounded, so would not have been able to hear it. Visually, since it was nighttime and the aircraft was flying over the darkened terrain of the Everglades, no ground lights or other visual signs indicated the TriStar was slowly descending.
Captain Loft was found during the autopsy to have an undetected brain tumor, in an area that controls vision. However, the NTSB concluded that the captain's tumor did not contribute to the accident.
The final NTSB report cited the cause of the crash as pilot error, specifically: "the failure of the flight crew to monitor the flight instruments during the final four minutes of flight, and to detect an unexpected descent soon enough to prevent impact with the ground. Preoccupation with a malfunction of the nose landing gear position indicating system distracted the crew's attention from the instruments and allowed the descent to go unnoticed."
In response to the accident, many airlines started crew resource management training for their pilots. The training is designed to make problem solving in a cockpit much more efficient, thus causing less distraction for the crew. Flashlights are now standard equipment near jumpseats, and all jumpseats are outfitted with shoulder harnesses.
Randall Brooks’ varied flying experience supports the advancement of APS’s unique flight training programs and advanced pilot training techniques. Randall joined APS in 2012 with seven years of experience in the UPRT field and more than 25 years of flight operations and training experience as a pilot and aviation manager.
Prior to joining APS, Randall held multiple director of flight operations and director of flight training positions. While vastly skilled providing flight instruction in flight simulators, gliders, aerobatic aircraft, multi-engine jets, and military jet training aircraft, he finds UPRT the most challenging and gratifying as providing such training offers the greatest potential for worldwide aviation safety improvement.
Randall served as the president of the Upset Prevention and Recovery Training Association (UPRTA), focusing on instructor and training program standardization. He has also served as the leader of training analysis for the International Committee for Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes (ICATEE), an international working group founded by the Royal Aeronautical Society. Randall has assisted in drafting FAA Advisory Circulars and other guidance material in the area of stall training and loss of control prevention, and has appeared as a subject matter expert for multiple Aviation Rulemaking Committee proceedings on these subjects.
As an instructor pilot, Randall has over 25 years of experience in the delivery of all-attitude/all-envelope flight instruction. He served as a primary instructor for the FAA Flight Standardization Board’s evaluation of pilot training for a newly certified business jet aircraft and developed a unique training program combining both simulator and aircraft training for European aviation authorities. He was also instrumental in creating a required program of upset recovery instruction for customers of a certificated light jet aircraft.
Randall is a 3 time Master CFI–Aerobatic and has over 13,500 hours of flight experience in over 100 different aircraft types. As an airshow demonstration pilot, he performed over 500 surface level aerobatic displays throughout North America and the Caribbean. He served as a member of numerous civilian formation aerobatic teams and flew formation aerobatics professionally for 19 years. Randall’s diverse airshow experience includes demonstration of a single-engine jet aircraft prototype and leading a two-ship sailplane team. As the director of operations for the Red Baron Squadron, he was responsible for the formation training and airshow qualification of all pilots of a seven-ship fleet of aerobatic aircraft.
Randall holds a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado. In the field of flight simulation, Randall worked as a flight test engineer creating and executing a test plan to gather data for flight simulator development and has evaluated operational and research simulators assessing their upset recovery training potential and capabilities. In 2019, he received the NBAA Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism Award recognizing individual aviation professionals who have demonstrated their outstanding professionalism and leadership in support of aviation safety in the business aviation industry.
Randall’s articles and presentations on flight training to reduce the LOC-I Accident Threat
United Airlines Flight 266 was a scheduled flight from Los Angeles International Airport, California, to General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee, Wisconsin via Stapleton International Airport, Denver, Colorado with 38 on board. On January 18, 1969 at approximately 18:21 PST it crashed into Santa Monica Bay, Pacific Ocean, about 11.5 miles (18.5 km) west of Los Angeles International Airport, four minutes after takeoff.
Rescuers (at the time) speculated that an explosion occurred aboard the plane, a Boeing 727. Three and a half hours after the crash three bodies had been found in the ocean along with parts of fuselage and a United States mail bag carrying letters with that day's postmark. Hope was dim for survivors because the aircraft was configured for domestic flights and did not carry liferafts or lifejackets. A Coast Guard spokesman said it looked "very doubtful that there could be anybody alive."
Up until 2013, United used "Flight 266" designation on its San Francisco-Chicago (O'Hare) route.
The crew of Flight 266 was Captain Leonard Leverson, 49, a veteran pilot who had been with United Airlines for 22 years and had almost 13,700 flying hours to his credit. His first officer was Walter Schlemmer, 33, who had approximately 7,500 hours, and the flight engineer was Keith Ostrander, 29, who had 634 hours. Between them the crew had more than 4,300 hours of flight time on the Boeing 727.
The Boeing 727-22C aircraft, registration N7434U, was almost new and had been delivered to United Airlines only four months earlier. It had less than 1,100 hours of operating time. The aircraft had had a nonfunctional #3 generator for the past several days leading up to the accident. Per standard procedure, the crew placed masking tape over the switches and warning lights for the generator. Approximately two minutes after takeoff, the crew reported a fire warning on engine #1 and shut it off. The crew radioed to departure control that they only had one functioning generator and needed to come back to the airport, but it turned out to be their last communication, with subsequent attempts to contact Flight 266 proving unsuccessful. Shortly after engine #1 shut down, the #2 generator also ceased operating for reasons unknown. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was unable to determine why the #2 generator had failed after it had become the plane's sole power source, nor why the "standby electrical system either was not activated or failed to function."
Several witnesses saw Flight 266 take off and reported seeing sparks emanating from either engine #1 or the rear of the fuselage, while others claimed an engine was on fire. Salvage operations were conducted to recover the wreckage of the aircraft, but not much useful information was gleaned as the cockpit instruments were not recovered. The wreckage was in approximately 930 feet (280 meters) of water and had been severely fragmented, however the relatively small area in which it was spread indicated an extremely steep, nose-down angle at impact. There was little in the way of identifiable human remains at the wreckage site, only two passengers were identified and only one intact body was found. The #2 and #3 engines suffered severe rotational damage from high RPM speeds at impact, but the #1 engine had almost no damage because it had been powered off. No evidence of any fire or heat damage was found on the engines, thus disproving the witnesses' claims. The small portion of the electrical system that was recovered did not provide any relevant information. The CVR took nearly six weeks to locate and recover. NTSB investigators could not explain the sparking seen by witnesses on the ground and theorized that it might have been caused by debris being sucked into the engine, a transient compressor stall or an electrical system problem that led to the eventual power failure. They also were unable to explain the engine #1 fire warning in the absence of a fire, but this may have resulted from electrical system problems or a cracked duct that allowed hot engine air to set off the temperature sensors. The sensors from the #1 and #2 engines were recovered and exhibited no signs of malfunction. Some tests indicated that it was indeed possible for the #2 generator to fail from an overload condition as a result of the operating load being suddenly shifted onto it following the #1 generator's shutdown, and this was maintained as a possible cause of the failure.
N7434U had recently been fitted with a generator control panel that had been passed around several different UAL aircraft because of several malfunctions. After being installed in N7434U the month prior to the ill-fated flight, generator #3 once again caused operating problems and was swapped with a different unit. Since that generator was subsequently tested and found to have no mechanical issues, the control panel was identified as the problem after it caused further malfunctions with the replacement generator. Busy operating schedules and limited aircraft availability meant that repair work on N7434U was put on hold, with nothing that could be done in the meantime except to disable the #3 generator. The NTSB investigators believed that the inoperative #3 generator probably was not responsible for the #2 generator's in-flight failure since it was assumed to be isolated from the rest of the electrical system.
With the loss of all power to the lights and flight attitude instruments, flying at night in instrument conditions, the pilots quickly became spatially disoriented and unable to know which inputs to the flight controls were necessary to keep the plane flying normally. Consequently, the crew lost control of the aircraft and crashed into the ocean in a steep nose-down angle, killing everyone on board. The flight control system would not have been affected by the loss of electrical power, since it relied on hydraulic and mechanical lines, so it was concluded that loss of control was the result of the crew's inability to see around the cockpit. It was theorized that the non-activation of the backup electrical system might have been for one of several reasons:
The CVR and FDR both lost power just after the crew informed ATC of the fire warning on engine #1. At an unknown later point, both resumed operation for a short period of time. The FDR came back online for 15 seconds, the CVR nine seconds during which time it recorded the crew discussing their inability to see where the plane was. No sounds of the plane impacting the water could be heard when this second portion of the recording ceased.
At the time, a battery-powered backup source for critical flight instruments was not required on commercial aircraft. The accident prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to require all transport-category aircraft to carry backup instrumentation, powered by a source independent of the generators.
The NTSB's "probable cause" stated:
"The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was loss of altitude orientation during a night, instrument departure in which the altitude instruments were disabled by loss of electrical power. The Board has been unable to determine (a) why all generator power was lost or (b) why the standby electrical power system either was not activated or failed to function."
As a result of this accident, all air carrier aircraft are required to have an additional attitude indicator (Standby Attitude Indicator) that has its own power supply and will operate without selection in the event of a failure of the aircraft electrical system.
Kevin Sweeney is the only person to successfully land a KC-135, the military version of the Boeing 707, after two of the four engines were ripped completely off the airplane while on a night combat mission in Desert Storm. This challenging experience taught him to think on his feet and be highly flexible, which means that he will quickly make adjustments to his presentation to be sure that your audience is receiving the most applicable information possible.
The unique life experiences of Kevin Sweeney have molded him into an inspirational speaker, allowing him to effectively motivate members of any organization. Through his presentation, people learn how to shine during the tough days by using specific techniques, helping them to maintain a calm composure when faced with change or challenge.
Kevin has written Pressure Cooker Confidence: Pressure Cooker Confidence takes you on a true story of a phenomenal military jet flight where the two engines on the left wing of the KC-135E tanker aircraft (military version of the Boeing 707 aircraft) come completely off the airplane. Without warning the crew is suddenly faced with this terrifying life-threatening emergency. How they react will determine their ability to survive this airborne crisis. The unforeseen crisis happens at night, at maximum gross weight, and on a Desert Storm combat sortie. The story takes you through the remarkable successful recovery of the airplane.