On a calm summer night, passengers boarded the plane that would take them from Kuala Lumpur to Perth. The atmosphere was relaxed; the weather was fine, there were no approaching thunderstorms, and the plane didn’t have any technical issues. But by the time the plane was in the air south-east of Jakarta, Indonesia, the first officer was sending out a Mayday distress call. All four of their engines had failed.
It happened on June 24, 1982. British Airways Flight 9, also called Speedbird 9, performed its scheduled flight from London Heathrowto Auckland, with 5 stops on the way: in Bombay, Madras, Kuala Lumpur, Perth, and Melbourne.
That day, the plane that had to fly this route was a Boeing 747 named the City of Edinburgh. The plane had already made it to Kuala Lumpur uneventfully. Most passengers were already on board the aircraft since it left London and, having traveled through several time zones, were exhausted. But the cockpit crew took control of the plane in Kuala Lumpur, meaning they were alert and full of energy. The crew consisted of Captain Eric Moody, Senior First Officer Roger Greaves, and Senior Engineer Officer Barry Townley-Freeman.
There were 247 passengers and 100 tons (90 tonnes) of fuel on board the plane. That night, although moonless, was quite clear, and the flying conditions couldn’t be better. All in all, the crew expected an uneventful 5-hour flight. The plane reached the cruising height of 37,000 ft (11,277 m), and the captain descended the stairs to the first class area to stretch his legs and use the toilet. But then, almost immediately, he was called back to the flight deck. While climbing the stairs, he spotted weird puffs of smoke rising up from the vents at the floor level. And even though at that time passengers were still allowed to smoke on board, this smoke had a very peculiar acrid
smell and looked thicker than usual.
Anyway, when Moody entered the flight deck, he immediately spotted why his co-pilot had called for him. The windshields were ablaze with the most intense phenomenon of St. Elmo’s fire the captain had ever seen in his life.
Usually, St. Elmo’s fire is a harmless discharge of static electricity on a metal surface, and planes, as well as ships, experience it on a regular basis. But that’s where the problem lies. As soon as the captain fastened his seat belt, he looked at the weather radar – and it wasn’t showing any thunder clouds at all! The weather was as clear as it was when they’d started their journey! When the crew switched on their landing lights, they also noticed that there was a weird cloud surrounding the plane. The situation was becoming more and more confusing. Luckily, the First Officer had already put on the seat belt sign and the engine igniters. It was about 8:40 PM Jakarta time.
The flight went on, but the smoke started to accumulate in the airplane’s passenger cabin. And while at first, it resembled cigarette smoke, with every passing minute, it was getting thicker and acquired the ominous stench of sulfur. The temperature on board also began to rise. But that wasn’t all. Suddenly, the passengers who could see the engines from their seats noticed that they were bright blue, and some bizarre light was shining through the fan blades. By that time, the plane had been flying in a cloud of bright white light, and the temperature on board kept soaring. The people were covered with sweat; the acrid smoke was getting into their eyes, noses, and throats.
It was 8:42 when Barry Townley-Freeman shouted that engine number four had flamed out. Without losing time, the crew shut down the engine by arming the fire extinguishers and cutting off the fuel supply. But just a minute later, at 8:43, engine number two flamed up as well, followed by engines one and three. The huge plane turned into a glider in a matter of minutes. The captain estimated that they could glide 15 miles (24 km) for every mile (1.6 km) they dropped. It meant that the plane was able to glide for only 23 minutes and cover the distance of 91 nautical miles (168 km).
At 8:44 PM the First Officer informed local air traffic control about their emergency. However, even though he had said everything correctly, Jakarta Area Control decided that only engine number four had failed. They probably just couldn’t grasp the horror of the situation. Luckily, another nearby flight helped to clear up the misunderstanding and convey the urgent message to air control. The southern coast of Indonesian Java island is covered with high mountains. That’s why the altitude needed to cross the coast safely should be no less than 11,500 ft (3,500 m)….(Please, watch the video to find out the ending of the story)
Source: Bright Side Channel on Youtube