Today, surfing the internet I came across the 74 page report (http://www.airdisaster.com/reports/ntsb/AAR74-14.pdf) of an airline crash at Logan Airport in Boston on December 17, 1973. Since I was on that plane the memories came flooding back as I read its details. Most amazing to me is how my child-hood memories of the accident closely follow the details given in the report.
Plane travel can be very frightening for a child. As a seven-year old I certainly felt some trepidation when boarding our aircraft in Madrid Spain heading back home to Boston. In a conversation that has gone down in family lore, my sister Jodi assured me that air-travel was certainly safer than riding in a car, which seemed logical to a kid who had never felt too confident in his mother’s driving. Jodi was also in charge of making sure I did not filthy my clothes while eating plane-food during the ten-hour journey.
I was unfortunate, however, to learn at a young age that the odds don’t matter if its “your” time.
I do not remember much from the flight, but as we approached Boston it was dark and sitting on the wing I could see the phantom shadows of a thousand snowflakes.We were landing in a winter storm, my stomach churned. Since it was a very bumpy ride, the pilot with his Spanish accent alerted us to fasten our seat belts. It was at that point that I reached for my sister’s hand.
I still remember the slight look of fear that washed over the faces of our stewardesses, who before the approach had been awash with smiles…perhaps looking forward to some romantic rendez-vous. We were approaching fast, when the plane hit something that was not the runway with a dull thud. The entire plane shook, and then lurched back skyward with the engines moaning in agony. It was then the aircrew let out their screams. Suddenly the plane went dark and began to plummet back to the snowy earth. Everyone went silent, except for the babies who wailed in unison. At that point, even as a seven-year-old, I knew that I was at death’s gate. I remember thinking that I might not make it to my seventh birthday, which was in two days. Strangely I felt calm and crouched in a crash position that my sister helped me into whilst holding my hand and admonishing me to get ready to get out of my seat and dash quickly to the emergency exit, which was on the opposite side from where we were sitting. We hit the runway incredibly hard. I only learned latter that the impact dislodged the landing gear and snapped the tail of the plane, whilst the the rest of the plane careened off the runway towards a muddy marsh.. As we lumbered down the runway, I looked out the window to see the entire wing and engine were in flames.
When the plane finally came to a halt, that is when the real fun began. Like a hundred cattle hurtling towards a cliff, passengers flung themselves out of their seats trampling one another seeking safety. It was every man and women for themselves. Certainly no one was going to help me except myself. By some miracle I made it to one the few escape exits that had opened. As i jumped into the yellow inflatable exits, an armada of fire trucks with their sirens screaming raced towards the crash. I only learned latter that their fast actions putting out the fire had probably kept the plane from exploding and killing many of us.
I remember somehow hearing my Mother’s voice through the din, admonishing me to “Run” the plane was on fire, or perhaps that was just a little boy’s imagination.
After that all I recall is seeing other passengers covered in mud from their escape getting interviewed by reporters. How did they get here so fast?, my childish mind pondered. In contrast I only had a few drips of mud on my blazer. This made me slightly jealous as I realized that nobody even thought that I had been in the crash.
In another story that has gone down in family lore, when my joyous mother saw me in the recovery room, the first thing I said was “Look mommy, I did not get out any mud on my suit.” Her tears and long embrace assured me that once again I was just a little boy, and everything was going to be okay.
In the end we were very lucky that no one died. I also enjoyed having the best seat on the school-bus for one straight week!
Here is a bit of an excerpt from the report.
About 1543 e.s.t. on December 17, 1973, Iberia Lieees- -Bereas-& ,,
-light 933, a DC-10-30, crashed while making an instrument
landing system approach to runway 33L at Logan International Airport,
one flight attendant were injured seriously during evacuation. The
aircraft was substantially damaged.
Thirteen passengers were injured slightly; two passengers and
short of the threshold of the runway. The aircraft then struck an
The aircraft first struck approach light piers about 500 feet
embankment and sheared its right main landing gear. The aircraft
and 280 feet north of runway 33L.
skidded to a stop on the airport about 3,000 feet beyond the threshold
At the time of the accident, low ceilings with obscurations and
a visibility of 3/4 mile in rain and fog prevailed at Logan
-The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the
probable cause of this accident was that the captain did not recognize,
and may have been unable to recognize,an increased rate of descent in
time to arrest it before the ai
The Massachusetts Port Authority Fire Department located on the Logan
Airport, responded immediately and arrived within 3 minutes of the crash
alarm that was activated by the Boston Tower ground controller. The City
of Boston Fire Department was also notified. Department firemen responded
and assisted in the rescue operations.
The aircraft caught fire while it skidded along and off the runway.
around the left engine, and along the left side of the fuselage when they
According to the firemen, fire was burning under the left wing,
arrived at the aircraft. Fuel from a ruptured left wing fuel tank was
feeding the fire. The firemen extinguished
The aircraft struck light piers and then the embankment along the
edge of the harbor. The right main gear was sheared. The aircraft then
became airborne for about 1,200 feet, landed on runway 33L, veered off
threshold and 280 feet north of the runway. (See Appendix E.)
the runway to the right, and skidded to a stop about 3,000 feet from the
The aircraft stopped in an upright position. The fuselage aft
section had partially separated near station 1811. The aft section was
horizontal stabilizer touching the ground.
twisted to the right and was resting on the tail cone with the right
fully extended. The right inboard flap had separated from the wing and
was found near the runway threshold.
The !eading edge slats and trailing edge flaps on both wings were
left stabilizer contained numerous perforations,and the right stabilizer
The inboard and outboard ailerons on both wings were intact. The
was damaged extensively.
located along the wreckage path about 150 feet from the aircraft. The
nose gear assembly failed rearward and was embedded in the fuselage at
station 735. The drag support for the centerline gear failed; the gear
rotated aft about its upper pivot and was embedded in the fuselage.
and pylon assembly rotated outboard about 45O, but remained under the
The No. 1 engine pylon separated from the left wing. The engine
The No. 2 engine remained intact and in place on the fuselage Pylon.
pylon assembly rotated inboard about 90′. The assembly remained under the
The No. 3 engine pylon separated from the right wing. The engine and
Examination of the aircraft’s structure, engines, flight controls,
and instruments revealed no evidence of preimpact failures or malfunctions.
Examination of the captain’s seat disclosed that the rack drive pinion and needle bearing, which was mounted on the pedestal above the dual electric actuator and clutch assembly, disengaged from the gear sector pan. This allowed the seat to move freely in the horizontal plane. and gear rack support, which was mounted within the seat bottom .
The Wind Shear Phenomenon of the accident suggested that a low altitude wind shear was present.
-The weather conditions that existed in the Boston area at the time
The problems associated with wind shear have been examined in
several theoretical analyses and analog simulations.However, most studies
have been confined to the effect of the shear on the aircraft’s touchdown
point, assuming no control or thrust changes.-