BOAC Flight 712

Last updated

BOAC Flight 712
G-ARWE-2.jpg
The burning 707-465, showing the tail section's skin melted to expose its interior.
Accident
Date8 April 1968
SummaryFire in number 2 port engine
Site Hounslow, United Kingdom
Aircraft
Aircraft type Boeing 707-465
Operator BOAC
Registration G-ARWE
Flight origin London Heathrow Airport
Middlesex, United Kingdom
1st stopover Zürich Airport
Zürich, Switzerland
2nd stopover Singapore International Airport, Singapore
Destination Sydney Airport
Sydney, Australia
Occupants127
Passengers116
Crew11
Fatalities5
Injuries38
Survivors122

BOAC Flight 712 (callsign Speedbird 712) was a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) service operated by a Boeing 707-465 from London Heathrow Airport bound for Sydney via Zurich and Singapore. On Monday 8 April 1968, it suffered an engine failure on takeoff that quickly led to a major fire. The engine fell off the aircraft in flight. After the aircraft had made a successful emergency landing, confusion over checklists and distractions from the presence of a check pilot contributed to the deaths of five of the 127 on board.

Contents

Flight attendant Barbara Jane Harrison was posthumously awarded the George Cross for heroism during the accident, another crew member received a British Empire Medal, and an air traffic controller was made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. As a result of the accident, BOAC changed certain aspects of its emergency procedure checklists.

Flight

Flight 712 took off from Heathrow at 15:27 GMT (16:27 BST), 12 minutes later than scheduled. [1] It had 127 people aboard, including a crew augmented by the addition of an acting flight officer, John Hutchinson (later to become a Concorde captain), and a check captain for routine performance review of the pilot in command, Captain Cliff Taylor. As well as the passengers, the aircraft was carrying baggage, mail and a radioactive isotope from the Isotope Production Unit at Harwell destined for the University Hospital in Jerusalem. [2]

Seconds after takeoff from Heathrow's then-9,000-foot-long (2,700 m) runway 28L (extended, years later, and re-designated 27L), [3] there was an unexpected bang and the aircraft started vibrating. The throttle controlling number two engine was shutting down. While Captain Taylor ordered an engine failure drill, Flight Engineer Thomas Hicks carried out the engine failure drill, but both he and Check Captain Geoffrey Moss reached for the switch to cancel the undercarriage warning horn. At the same time, First Officer Francis Kirkland inadvertently cancelled the fire bell. Hicks reached for, but didn't pull, the engine fire shut-off handle. [2] Moss, observing the fire, exclaimed "Bloody hell! The wing's on fire!" [4] A Mayday was broadcast at 15:29. [1]

The aircraft in flight over Thorpe, with the detached engine (circled) G-ARWE-1.jpg
The aircraft in flight over Thorpe, with the detached engine (circled)

In the control tower, the takeoff had been observed by John Davis, who saw what he initially thought was the sun reflecting off the aircraft's wing during its initial climb. Davis quickly realised that the aircraft was on fire. Davis instructed Flight 712 to make a left turn, with the intention that the aircraft would land on runway 28L. [4] He hit the "crash button" which alerted the emergency services and declared an aircraft accident. The emergency services were informed of the type of aircraft involved and given a meeting point at which they were to assemble. [2]

By this time, the windows on the port side at the rear of the fuselage were beginning to melt. As the aircraft flew over Thorpe the burning engine broke away from its mounting; no one on the ground was injured. [2] At this time, the undercarriage was lowered and full flap selected. The flaps stopped three degrees short of their full travel. The aircraft was at a height of 3,000 feet (910 m) and flying at 225 knots (417 km/h). [5] Cabin crew member Jennifer Suares repeated the emergency landing drill for passengers. [2]

The crew realised that the aircraft would not last long enough to enable a landing back on 28L, and declared a Mayday. Davis cleared the aircraft to land on runway 05R, [4] which was 7,733 feet (2,357 m) long. [6] He also instructed two other aircraft to perform a go-around, as runway 05R crossed runway 28R, which they were due to land on and Davis did not know whether Flight 712 would be able to stop before reaching that runway. [4] The crew accepted Davis's offer of runway 05R, even though it was much shorter and not equipped with ILS. [2] Taylor was able to safely land the aircraft on 05R, using wheel brakes and thrust reversing the outboard engines to halt the aircraft. [7] The aircraft touched down about 400 yards (370 m) beyond the threshold and stopped in 1,400 yards (1,300 m). [5] Taylor asked Davis for permission to evacuate, but the cabin crew were already opening the emergency doors. [2] The flight crew started the fire drill, but the port wing exploded before this could be completed. As a result, the fire shut off handles were not pulled, and the booster pumps and electrical supply were left switched on. [5] Due to the short period of time between the Mayday being declared at 15:29 and the aircraft landing at 15:31, there was no time for the emergency services to lay a carpet of foam, which was standard practice at the time. [1]

Evacuation

The cabin crew started the evacuation, even before the aircraft had come to a halt, via both forward galley doors, both rear doors and the starboard overwing exits. Eighteen passengers escaped via the overwing exits before the fire grew too intense to use that route. The forward port galley door escape slide caught fire before it could be used, but one person jumped from there. 84 people escaped via the starboard galley door. Three of the crew escaped by using the emergency cockpit rope. The rear starboard door escape slide had twisted on deployment, so Taylor climbed down to straighten it, leaving stewardess Jane Harrison at the door assisting the passengers. Six passengers escaped via this route before the slide was punctured and deflated. Harrison pushed out passengers too frightened to jump. Eleven people escaped via this route, and five more escaped via the rear port door before the slide was destroyed. Harrison was last seen preparing to jump, but she turned back and disappeared into the passenger cabin, in an attempt to save the remaining four passengers, including a disabled woman and an eight-year-old girl. [2] [8] Harrison was awarded the George Cross posthumously in recognition of her selfless courage. [9] Thirty-five people were injured, and five died. [7]

Fire-fighting

The first two fire engines to arrive were unable to do much, as they stopped too far from the aircraft and their design prevented their moving once they began making foam. Also, buildup of paint on the coupling threads of nearby fire hydrants prevented hoses from being attached. A back-up foam water tender drove in closer and discharged its foam effectively, but the fire had already gained hold by then. [10]

Passengers

The aircraft was carrying 116 passengers and 11 crew. Five people died in the accident: stewardess Barbara Jane Harrison and four passengers. [11] All five were determined to have died of "asphyxia due to inhalation of fire fumes". [12]

Survivors included the pop singer Mark Wynter, who was travelling to Australia to be married, [13] and Katriel Katz, Israeli Ambassador to the Soviet Union. [13] Katz, a large man, was the only passenger to escape by jumping through the forward port door; Hutchinson and Unwin tried to direct him to the slide on the starboard side and were almost carried through the port door by Katz, who was seriously injured in the jump. [11]

Aircraft involved

The aircraft involved was a Boeing 707-465 registered G-ARWE [lower-alpha 1] with a total of 20,870 flight hours [5] since it first flew on 27 June 1962. On 21 November 1967 it had suffered an engine failure resulting in an aborted takeoff with no injuries. [14] The aircraft was insured for £2,200,000 with Lloyd's of London. [15]

The aircraft's nose section was salvaged for use on a Convair CV-580 for test purposes as part of the Total In Flight Simulator program.[ dead link ] [16] (Accounts that the nose from G-ARWE was used to repair a damaged TWA 707 are incorrect.) [2] [17] [18]

Investigation

Metal fatigue was ultimately blamed for the failure of the number five compressor wheel in the number two Rolls-Royce 508 Conway turbofan engine, [7] initiating a rapid chain of failures. The crew's omitting to shut off the fuel to the engine was blamed for the rapid growth of the fire and the loss of the aircraft. [5] Check Captain Moss had accidentally cancelled the fire warning bell instead of the undercarriage warning bell. Moss had also issued orders to Captain Taylor, in breach of the normal protocol for his duties. However, the report on the accident also stated that Captain Taylor had briefed Moss to act as an extra set of eyes and ears inside and outside the cockpit. Moss's actions therefore could be seen as acting within that remit. [4] [19] Although Moss had alerted the crew to the fire, none of them were aware that the number 2 engine had fallen off until after the evacuation on the ground.

As a result of the investigation, and lessons learned from the chain of events, BOAC combined the "Engine Fire Drill" and "Engine Severe Failure Drill" checklists into one list, called the "Engine Fire or Severe Failure Drill". Modifications were also made to the checklist, including adding to the checklist confirmation that the fire handles had been pulled. [8]

The aircraft's number 2 port engine No.5097, constructed in 1961, had run for 14,917 hours from new, and had been overhauled in spring 1965 because of vibration caused by metal fatigue that had led to the failure of a stage 8 high-pressure compressor blade. In 1967 the engine had been removed from service because of flame tube deterioration, and as part of the repairs, the low-pressure compressor, of which the number 5 wheel was an original component, was overhauled, but the wheel itself was not tested for fatigue. On 22 November 1967 the engine was bench tested and rejected because of excessive vibration of the high-pressure compressor, but was later released as serviceable following further analysis. [20] After 1,415 hours service on another 707 and modification to the turbine seals, on 5 April 1968 No.5097 became number 2 engine of the port wing of the aircraft, scheduled to fly long-haul to Sydney, Australia, three days later. [21]

According to Rolls-Royce's investigation, shortly after takeoff on 8 April 1968 the 5th stage low-pressure compressor wheel failed in fatigue at the run out radius of the wheel web with the rim,[ further explanation needed ] causing secondary failures to other parts of the engine. [22] The wheel then burst through its casing and severed the main fuel pipe, igniting the fuel which was being pumped at 50 gallons (approx. 227 litres) per minute. The engine's two extinguishers had been disabled by damage to the engine cowling. The fire's heat caused the engine pylon to give way, allowing the engine to fall. However, the fuel booster pump continued to function, intensifying the fire until it spread to the wing itself, sweeping back from forward of the leading edge towards the tail. The application of reverse thrust on landing, and the westerly crosswind on the runway, blew the flames underneath the wing and set light to the fuselage. The rapidly intensifying fire then spread under the aircraft and ignited the fuel lines and oxygen tanks, which, within seconds of the aircraft coming to a stop, caused a series of explosions that broke through the fuselage and set fire to the cabin. [23]

Awards

Barbara Jane Harrison's grave Barbara Jane Harrison 785.jpg
Barbara Jane Harrison's grave

Queen Elizabeth II awarded Barbara Jane Harrison a posthumous George Cross (GC), the only GC ever presented to a woman in peacetime. [9] Her medal was accepted on her behalf by her father, Alan. [2] Harrison is the youngest ever female recipient of the George Cross. [24] Neville Davis-Gordon was awarded the British Empire Medal for Gallantry (BEM). [9] John Davis was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). [2]

The citation for Barbara Jane Harrison's GC reads:- [9]

On 8 April 1968, soon after take-off from Heathrow Airport, No. 2 engine of B.O.A.C. Boeing 707 G-ARWE caught fire and subsequently fell from the aircraft, leaving a fierce fire burning at No. 2 engine position. About two and a half minutes later the aircraft made an emergency landing at the airport and the fire on the port wing intensified. Miss Harrison was one of the stewardesses in this aircraft and the duties assigned to her in an emergency were to help the steward at the aft station to open the appropriate rear door and inflate the escape chute and then to assist the passengers at the rear of the aircraft to leave in an orderly manner. When the aircraft landed Miss Harrison and the steward concerned opened the rear galley door and inflated the chute, which unfortunately became twisted on the way down so that the steward had to climb down it to straighten it before it could be used. Once out of the aircraft he was unable to return; hence Miss Harrison was left alone to the task of shepherding passengers to the rear door and helping them out of the aircraft. She encouraged some passengers to jump from the machine and pushed out others. With flames and explosions all around her and escape from the tail of the machine impossible she directed her passengers to another exit while she remained at her post. She was finally overcome while trying to save an elderly cripple who was seated in one of the last rows and whose body was found close to that of the stewardess. Miss Harrison was a very brave young lady who gave her life in her utter devotion to duty.

The citation for Neville Davis-Gordon's BEM reads:- [9]

Award of the British Empire Medal for Gallantry (Civil Division)

On 8 April 1968, soon after take-off from Heathrow Airport, No. 2 engine of B.O.A.C. Boeing 707 G-ARWE caught fire, and subsequently fell from the aircraft, leaving a fierce fire burning at the No. 2 engine position. About two and a half minutes later the aircraft made an emergency landing at the airport and the fire on the port wing intensified. Mr. Davis-Gordon was Chief Steward aboard the aircraft, under his command, the cabin staff successfully organised the escape of 112 passengers, from a total of 116 from the burning aircraft. The Chief Steward's firm and calm instructions not only guided passengers to the most appropriate exit, but clearly helped to avoid any panic. On one occasion it was necessary for Mr. Davis-Gordon to get out on to the starboard wing to assist a passenger who had become stranded there because of the spread of the fire. He helped her back, re-entered the aircraft and directed her to a safe escape exit at the front of the aircraft. By remaining on the aircraft until he was satisfied all survivors had left the main cabin, he risked his life in the knowledge that a further explosion might occur at any moment and engulf the aircraft. His coolness and qualities of leadership were of a high order and an inspiration to his cabin staff, who themselves displayed high qualities of devotion to duty in spite of the obvious perils of the situation.

In addition, Air Traffic Control Officer John Davis, who was responsible for Flight 712 and had first spotted the port engine fire from the ground, was appointed MBE. [25]

Captain Cliff Taylor and Acting First Officer John Hutchinson had managed to safely land their aircraft which, having lost an engine, was on fire carrying about 22,000 gallons of fuel, in the most testing of circumstances and almost certainly saved 121 lives. Taylor was recommended for an award by BOAC, but following the publication of the official inquiry report in August 1969, the decision was taken at ministerial level not to recognise any member of the flight crew. Both Taylor and Hutchinson received, along with First Officer Francis Kirkland and Check Captain Geoffrey Moss, but not Flight Engineer Thomas Hicks, commendations from BOAC, and Captain Taylor was awarded the British Airline Pilots Association Gold Medal. [26]

See also

Other accidents in which aircrew were decorated include:

Notes

  1. Manufacturer's serial number 18373, Boeing line number 302.

Related Research Articles

Boeing 377 Stratocruiser

The Boeing 377 Stratocruiser was a large long-range airliner developed from the C-97 Stratofreighter military transport, itself a derivative of the B-29 Superfortress. The Stratocruiser's first flight was on July 8, 1947. Its design was advanced for its day; its innovative features included two passenger decks and a pressurized cabin, a relatively new feature on transport aircraft. It could carry up to 100 passengers on the main deck plus 14 in the lower deck lounge; typical seating was for 63 or 84 passengers or 28 berthed and five seated passengers.

British Airtours Flight 28M

British Airtours Flight 28M was an international passenger flight which caught fire before takeoff at Manchester Airport, England on 22 August 1985 with the loss of 55 lives. It was en route to Corfu International Airport in Greece.

Varig Flight 820 1973 plane crash in France

Varig Flight 820 was a flight of the Brazilian airline Varig that departed from Galeão International Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 11, 1973, for Orly Airport, in Paris, France. The plane, a Boeing 707 registration PP-VJZ, made an emergency landing on onion fields about four kilometers from Orly Airport, due to smoke in the cabin from a fire in a lavatory. The fire caused 123 deaths; there were only 11 survivors.

TWA Flight 159 1967 aviation accident

Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight 159 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight from New York City to Los Angeles, California, with a stopover in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Kentucky, that crashed after an aborted takeoff from Cincinnati on 6 November 1967. The Boeing 707 attempted to abort takeoff when the copilot became concerned that the aircraft had collided with a disabled DC-9 on the runway. The aircraft overran the runway, struck an embankment and caught fire. One passenger died as a result of the accident.

Barbara Jane Harrison British flight attendant

Barbara Jane Harrison GC, known as Jane Harrison, was a British flight attendant, one of four women to have been awarded the George Cross for heroism and the only woman awarded the medal for gallantry in peacetime.

1990 Wayne County Airport runway collision

The Wayne County Airport runway collision involved the collision of two Northwest Airlines jetliners at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on December 3, 1990. Flight 1482, a scheduled Douglas DC-9-14 operating from Detroit to Pittsburgh International Airport, taxied by mistake onto an active runway in dense fog and was hit by a departing Boeing 727 operating as Flight 299 to Memphis International Airport. One member of the crew and seven passengers of the DC-9 were killed.

El Al Flight 1862 1992 plane crash in the Netherlands

On 4 October 1992, El Al Flight 1862, a Boeing 747 cargo aircraft of the then state-owned Israeli airline El Al, crashed into the Groeneveen and Klein-Kruitberg flats in the Bijlmermeer neighbourhood of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. From the location in the Bijlmermeer, the crash is known in Dutch as the Bijlmerramp.

Japan Airlines Flight 472 (1972)

Japan Airlines Flight 472 was a flight from London to Tokyo via Frankfurt, Rome, Beirut, Tehran, Bombay, Bangkok and Hong Kong. On September 24, 1972, the flight landed at Juhu Aerodrome near Bombay, India instead of the city's much larger Santacruz Airport and overran the runway, resulting in the aircraft being written off after being damaged beyond economic repair.

South African Airways Flight 228

South African Airways Flight 228 was a scheduled flight from Jan Smuts International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, to London Heathrow International Airport in England. The plane operating the flight, which was only 6 weeks old, flew into the ground soon after take-off after a scheduled stopover in Windhoek, South West Africa on 20 April 1968. Five passengers survived, while 123 people died. The subsequent investigation determined that the accident was attributable largely to pilot error; the manufacturer subsequently also recognised the lack of a ground proximity warning system in its aircraft. The accident is the deadliest aviation accident to date in Namibia.

Katriel Katz

Katriel Katz (1908–1988) was an Israeli diplomat who served as ambassador to the Soviet Union between 1965 and 1967 and Poland between 1956 and 1958.

American Airlines Flight 514 1959 aviation accident

American Airlines Flight 514 was a training flight from Idlewild International Airport, to the Grumman Aircraft Corp. airfield. On the afternoon of August 15, 1959, the Boeing 707 operating the flight crashed near the Calverton airport, killing all five crew members aboard. This was the first accident to ever involve a Boeing 707, which had only gone into service in October of the previous year.

British Overseas Airways Corporation

British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was the British state-owned airline created in 1939 by the merger of Imperial Airways and British Airways Ltd. It continued operating overseas services throughout World War II. After the passing of the Civil Aviation Act 1946, European and South American services passed to two further state-owned airlines, British European Airways (BEA) and British South American Airways (BSAA). BOAC absorbed BSAA in 1949, but BEA continued to operate British domestic and European routes for the next quarter century. A 1971 Act of Parliament merged BOAC and BEA, effective 31 March 1974, forming today's British Airways. For most of its history its main rival was Pan Am.

Pan Am Flight 843

Pan Am Flight 843 was a scheduled domestic commercial flight from San Francisco, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. On June 28, 1965, Clipper Friendship, the Boeing 707-321B operating this route, experienced an uncontained engine failure shortly after take-off, but was successfully able to make an emergency landing at the nearby Travis Air Force Base. This accident was filmed by a passenger.

British Airways Flight 2276 2015 aircraft fire at McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas

British Airways Flight 2276 was a scheduled international passenger service from Las Vegas to London. On 8 September 2015, the Boeing 777 operating the flight suffered an uncontained engine failure and fire in the left (#1) GE90 engine during take-off from Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport, prompting an aborted take-off and the evacuation of all passengers and crew. All 170 people on board survived, but 20 were injured. The aircraft, which suffered moderate damage to a section of its forward fuselage as of a result of the vigorous fire, was repaired and returned to commercial passenger service in March 2016.

1977 British Airtours Boeing 707 crash

On 17 March 1977 a British Airtours Boeing 707 being used for pilot training crashed and caught fire during its take-off roll at Glasgow Prestwick Airport. All four crew members on board survived.

References

  1. 1 2 3 "121 Escape as blazing Boeing crashes at Heathrow". The Times (57222). London. 9 April 1968. col A, p. 1.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 O'Brien, Tim (June 2008). "The Last Flight of Whiskey Echo". Aeroplane. Vol. 36, Number 6 no. 422. pp. 30–35. ISSN   0143-7240.
  3. "Background and History of Heathrow Airport". Miles faster. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Ottaway 2008, p. 40–61.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network Retrieved on 26 March 2008
  6. "Super VC10 Navigation & Performance Manual". VC10.net. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  7. 1 2 3 "Special Report: British Overseas Airline Company Flight 712". Air Disaster. Archived from the original on 17 April 2008. Retrieved 26 March 2008.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link) NB: Report has wrong date and wrong direction of flight 'over Hounslow'
  8. 1 2 Job, MacArthur (1994). Air Disaster. 1. Weston Creek, ACT: Aerospace Publications. pp. 60–66. ISBN   1-875671-11-0.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 "No. 44913". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 August 1969. pp. 8211–8213. Crown Copyright The citation for Harrison's GC is on p.1, Davis-Gordon's BEM is on p.3
  10. Duncan, Stephen (January 2009). "Heathrow 707 fire". Aeroplane. Vol. 37 no. 1. pp. 98–99. ISSN   0143-7240.
  11. 1 2 Ottaway 2008, p. 62-67.
  12. Ottaway 2008, p. 151.
  13. 1 2 Ottaway 2008, p. 19-39.
  14. "NTSB Identification: OAK68A0046". National Transportation Safety Board. Retrieved 15 May 2008.
  15. "Jet crash: £2m insurance bill". The Times (57223). London. 10 April 1968. col F, p. 211.
  16. "G-AWRE". ATDB.aero.
  17. "Picture of the Boeing 707-465 aircraft". Airliners.Net. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2015.[ better source needed ]
  18. Serling, Robert J. (1992). Legend and Lagacy. The story of Boeing and its people . New York: St. Martens Press. pp.  357–358. ISBN   0-312-05890-X.
  19. Ottaway 2008, p. 105–129.
  20. Ottaway 2008, p. 107.
  21. Ottaway 2008, p. 109.
  22. Ottaway 2008, p. 110.
  23. Ottaway 2008, pp. 110–111.
  24. "The Decoration, Facts and Statistics and Information about the Exchanges: The George Cross". George Cross Database. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2010.
  25. Ottaway 2008, p. 142.
  26. Ottaway 2008, pp. 137–138, 143–144.