Pilot miraculously saved nearly 420 lives by breaking the rules after an engine shut down
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Featured Image Credit: YouTube/Mini Air Crash Investigation
If there's one person you don't want to defy the rules while on the job, it's a pilot. And yet, doing exactly that allowed one pilot to save nearly 420 lives on a flight to New York.
I'm not recommending this become a habit of pilots, I'm just saying it happened to pay off on this one occasion.
The dramatic events unfolded on board an Olympic Airways plane travelling from Ellinikon International Airport, the main airport in Athens, Greece, to New York's JFK.
Four hundred passengers boarded the flight along with eighteen crew members ready to set off on the long-haul direct flight across the Atlantic. Pilot Sifis Migadis was in charge of the jet, with Constantinos Fikardos in the co-pilot seat.
The plane entered the runway at 2pm on 9 August 1978, but just moments after it started moving one of the jet's engines shut down.
Obviously this is not ideal, but the aircraft had already committed to getting airborne.
The plane powered forward, but the loss of the engine meant it did so slower than usual.
It didn't have its usual power to get into the sky, and as it continued to climb slowly it barely made it 200 feet in altitude.
Using his years of experience, Migadis decided to try and improve the plane's aerodynamics by retracting its landing gear at an altitude lower than usual to give the plane more chance of getting into the sky.
Flight Study explains the landing gear is usually retracted when the plane has reached an altitude where it could no longer be landed on the runway.
Clarifying this further, a captain told ABC News that 'on take-off, once there is an indicated positive rate of climb, the flying pilot will call "positive rate gear up" [and] the monitoring pilot will select the landing gear handle to the up position'.
However, when Migadis retracted the landing gear, the plane was still been low enough to collide with television aerials as it passed low over Athens.
In spite of Migadis' smart move, the passengers weren't out of the woods as up ahead was all 1,538 feet of Mount Aigaleo. Incredibly, a headwind gave the plane some altitude, and the pilot was able to make a gradual turn which allowed the plane to avoid a collision.
He was able to turn over the sea and dump fuel from the jet to make it lighter, but obviously this plane wasn't going to New York.
Instead, the pilot managed to manoeuvre it safely back to Ellinikon airport, where all passengers landed unharmed. Later, Boeing reported that there was an 'engine shut down' while the plane lifted off.
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