Imagine you need to get from Los Angeles to New York. To make it not so painfully long, you choose to take American Airlines Flight 96, with stopovers in Detroit and Buffalo. But several minutes after your plane leaves Detroit, it happens. Seemingly out of the blue – bang! And a part of the aircraft’s floor is missing right under your feet!
It happened on June 12, 1972. Captain Bryce McCormick was an aviation veteran with more than 24,000 flight hours under his belt. The co-pilot was also an experienced airman. There were 56 passengers on board the plane and 11 crew members. When the autopilot was turned on and the chief flight attendant went to the galley to make coffee, it happened. She was suddenly brought down to the floor by a powerful explosion…
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Why First Officer turned on the autopilot 1:42
Powerful explosion 2:05
A gaping hole in the cabin’s floor 3:01
The people on board were really lucky 4:58
The biggest challenge 6:19
Crazy landing 7:22
Why the cargo door blew out 8:21
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– All the control panel readings were normal, so Whitney turned on the autopilot. He didn’t have anything to worry about: the radar confirmed that there was no bad weather on the route between Detroit and Buffalo.
– Cydya Smith, the chief flight attendant on Flight 96, left her seat as soon as she saw the signs off and went to the galley to make coffee. And at exactly that moment, it happened.
– The cockpit was rapidly filling with dark gray dust that blinded the men and didn’t let them breathe.
– Unexplainably, a cargo door had been blown out less than 5 minutes after takeoff, and it left the plane with a gaping hole in its side.
– Hurricane force winds were sweeping through the cabin. One of the cabin crew members, Beatrice Copeland, was trapped under the collapsed door, unconscious.
– The biggest problem was that the DC-10 had one peculiarity: it didn’t have a backup system that allowed for manual operation if the hydraulic system got knocked out.
– At that moment, the people on board the damaged plane still didn’t know how lucky they were having Mr. McCormick as a pilot. Being curious about some of the DC-10 features, he’d spent hours on a flight deck simulator.
– McCormick understood that his damaged plane would need the priority to land, and he contacted the Detroit airport control tower.
– When the plane touched down, it was still moving incredibly fast. But the worst thing was that the aircraft was moving toward the main terminal building.
– Miraculously, Whitney managed to return the plane to the runway, with two sets of wheels running on the runway and the other two off.
– ll 67 people on board were alive, with only 11 not very serious injuries (9 passengers and 2 crew).
– A large cargo door gone as if peeled away by a huge can opener. But on the very same day, the missing door was located in a cornfield not far from Windsor, and investigators came to a shocking conclusion.
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