The Extraordinary Landing of TACA International Flight 110

The Extraordinary Landing of TACA International Flight 110

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the prototype for the first commercial jet airliner the de Havilland comet first flew in July of 1949 and it actually turned out to be a trouble design we still had a lot to learn it was briefly withdrawn from service after three highly publicized accidents occurred just in the year 1956 but some 40 years after the comet first started flying you think we would have learned our lessons and would have understood things like basic jet engine design or how weather interacts with engines but the terrifying tale of taça international flight 110 may 24th of 1988 reminds us that mother nature still had some things to teach us about the weather and how it impacts a jet engine and it is a story that deserves to be remembered TACA International Airlines flight 110 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight between San Salvador El Salvador to New Orleans Louisiana with an N routes top and belize city belize the airplane was a Boeing 737-300 the 300 model was a second-generation derivative of the venerable Boeing 737 a tested and reliable aircraft that had been in service for nearly two decades in fact this particular Boeing 737 was nearly new having first flown in January of the same year and only having had been in service with tacket Airlines for two weeks as a testament to how tested the design was this 737 was the 1500 and fifth to be manufactured the plane was piloted by a veteran crew 29 year old captain Carlos Dardano had amassed over 13,000 flight hours more than 4,000 of those on the Boeing 737 veteran first officer Dionysia Lopez had more than 12,000 hours of flight time and in addition a third pilot pilot instructor captain Arturo Zoe was in the cockpit to monitor the performance of the nearly new airplane in short this was a routine flight with a veteran aircrew flying a nearly new airplane but of a venerable and tested design that's as safe as it gets problems with this fight simply should not have happened the airplane with 38 passengers and a crew of seven on board departed as scheduled from Belize City and the flight was uneventful until descent into New Orleans from 35,000 feet during the descent from 35,000 feet the aircraft encountered severe weather very severe weather the plane had in fact encountered an area of intense rainfall followed by 30 seconds of heavy hail the storm intensity stated in terms of liquid water content was estimated to be 25 to 30 grams per cubic metre which equates to rainfall at a rate of approximately 30 inches per hour that should not have happened the aircraft like most all modern jet transports was equipped with weather radar that displays information regarding the intensity of weather in the vicinity of the airplane weather radars intended to provide the pilots with the depiction of weather in front of the plane and may influence flight path decisions if the weather in front of the airplane is sufficiently intense this radar looks very much like the radar that you see in the evening news with green area showing lighter precipitation with yellow and red area showing more moderate or severe precipitation the veteran crew seeing light to moderate weather in their path adjusted their flight approach to go between the more severe weather choosing an air approach that brought them on a dual East approach to New Orleans the pilots had done everything right and had to use their radar to avoid exactly the weather they encountered so why had they hit such aveer weather it might be that the thunderstorm developed quickly a phenomenon called a rapidly growing thunderstorm but that also might have been something called radar shadow on the weather radar screen areas where no precipitation is seen by the radar are displayed is black or the same color as the display background whoever when displaying extreme precipitation levels the radar may display the highest intensities that is worse than red as clear on the radar screen that is commonly known as radar shadow and as a result of attenuation of the radar signal in other words it is possible for the worst weather to appear on the radar screen as the best weather as they encountered the severe rain and hail at about 16,500 feet the pilot radioed New Orleans aircraft control declaring an emergency both engines had flamed out that means that the approximately 140,000 pounds ed aircraft had suddenly become an unpowered glider and the pilots were flying by dead sticking the term is dated and it's not referring to the flight controls to the period of propeller-driven aircraft where a loss of power would turn the propeller into nothing more than a dead stick trying to dead-stick landing with a passenger airliner can be described as not ideal moreover it should not have happened the engine stalled due to something called a flame out and that has to do with the basic idea of a jet engine every internal combustion engine has a combustion chamber the place where the fuel-air mix is burned a jet engine basically includes a rotating air compressor powered by a turbine with the leftover power providing thrust via a propelling nozzle the process is known as the Brayton thermodynamic cycle in short the burning gases in the combustion chamber rushed held the open back of the engine at high speed providing thrust lose ignition and you lose thrust the engine on tacky international flight 110 had ingested so much water that the flame in the combustion chamber had been doused but that still should not have happened the risk of water causing a flame out was understood at the time and so the US Federal Aviation Authority had established a water ingestion certification procedure for all jet engine designs manufacturers reportedly tested their engines by shooting them with a fire hose the rain the tack of flight 110 encountered was supposedly well within these certification standards moreover knowing the threat of weather the pilots had taken appropriate precautions switching the engine to continuous ignition and activating the engine anti-icing system and yet both engines still had flame outs why it all has to do with hail according to the National Transportation Safety Board prior to attack a flight 110 the risk of hail was seemed to be from the hail causing damage to engine components essentially acting like a foreign object hitting the engine hail was not considered for its effect on engine operation jet engine fame designs were built with the idea of preventing water ingestion because the turbine fan blades Center fused water away from the engine core it was assumed that hail would work pretty much the same as water but testing after the accident determined that it doesn't in fact ail Falls a much more ballistic path that at the right airspeed and turbine speeds allows the hail to shoot straight into the engine core in fact the FAA realized at some fan speeds and aircraft airspeed combinations ingestion of the core is greatly increased as Hale misses the fan blades and goes directly into the core something commonly called the venetian blind effect standards designed to print water from entering the engine failed because of the combination of airspeed turbine speed and hail but even the double engine flameout should not be catastrophic because an engine that is flamed out can be restarted just by the wind going through the engine turning the turbine something called a windmill restart and even if you don't have enough airspeed to do a windmill restart you can fire up the engines starter motors and restart the engine that way just the previous year an Air Europe 737 descending through rain and hail over Greece had also suffered a double flame out but the crew managed to restart the engines at land without trouble likewise the crew of taka flight 110 attempted to restart the engines when the windmill restart failed they were able to get the turbine spinning using the starter motor but the engines could not get to idle speed and we're not producing thrust there was still too much water in the engines as the FAA explains once the engine fails it cannot be restarted until the water to air ratio decreases to a point where the fuel to air ratio can once again maintain combustion now the situation was desperate the plane was without power and low altitude and turbulence from the storm gave them a limited glide ratio air traffic control quickly came up with options including Lakefront Airport whose runway was minimally sufficient and u.s. interstate 10 which has one straight mile for every five miles of highway unable to make it to either of these the pilots opted for a vector2 lake pontchartrain attempting a dangerous dead-stick water ditching new orleans air traffic control lost the transponder signal as the aircraft reached 1,600 feet they assumed the aircraft had crashed and quickly dispatched a Coast Guard helicopter from Naval Air Station joint Reserve Base New Orleans assuming the water rescue would be critical what those helicopters found frankly should not have happened TAC a flight 110 was parked on a narrow muddy New Orleans levee right next to NASA's Michoud assembly facility at just 700 feet first officer Lopez had seen the levee and identified it as being wide enough for a landing the crew had managed to maneuver called a side slip something generally reserved for a small craft not an unpowered 737 and had landed perfectly with no injuries to passengers or crew and minimal damage to the aircraft as one Northlands air traffic controller said after more than two decades of air traffic control I still say this is the most splendid piece of air traffic teamwork and the most incredible piece of flying I've ever been witness to or heard of the flight crew had mere seconds to assess the situation as to whether it's the lake or the field and they nailed it after the accident the National Transportation Safety Board mandated a change to the water ingestion standards and certain changes to the cfm56 engine that's used on the boeing 737 those included changing the engine spinner from conical to a combination elliptical and conical or con ethical shape that testing shows helps to guide the hail radially outward a change in the spacing of the fan blades to better to fight hail away from the engine core a sensor to force the combustor to continuously ignite under heavy rain and extra bleed doors to help drain water from the engine the plane was minimally damaged repairs to the engine were made on site and the plane was towed to NASA's Michoud facility nearby where after further repairs had used the facility's main road saturn boulevard to take off and fly to a full repair facility Saturn Road had at one time been a factory airfield as airplanes were manufactured on the site during the Second World War after repairs that 737 was put back into service with TECA Airlines eventually it was sold to Southwest Airlines that a continued service until it was retired in December of 2016 but despite 28 years of service it was really that one extraordinary landing a landing that frankly should not have happened that most deserves to be remembered I'm the history guy and I hope you enjoyed this my series of short snippets forgotten history about 10 minutes long and if you did enjoy please go ahead and click that thumbs up button which is there on your left if you have any questions or comments feel free to write those in the comment section I will be happy to personally respond and if you'd like more snippets of cotton history all you need to do is subscribe

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45 Comments

  1. ive done those sideslips in a cessna, you really sink fast. the customers must have thought they were dead.

  2. Great episode! Michoud Assembly Facility (where the mighty Saturn V first stage rocket and Space Shuttle external fuel tank were manufactured), is pronounced "Mee-shoo" (advice from someone who lives fifty miles from the site of that remarkable side slip levee landing). Just a shame they didn't have the energy and altitude to make it about five or ten miles to NAS Joint Reserve Base New Orleans near Chalmette.

  3. The Gimli incident also involved a dead stick Boeing, a side slip, nerves of steel and a bit of luck. I love some world class airmanship (not to be confused with manbearpig) tales.

  4. Back in the day when pilots had broader experience seeing that strip of land was instant recognition of and off field landing spot. Todays pilots would be too busy yakking on the radio and pushing buttons and flipping switches to bother to look out the window.

  5. You do such a beautiful job on these aviation videos! I am a retired airline pilot, and am shocked by your level of research. Well done!

  6. 😅😰😣I can’t imagine the size and complexity of THAT Air Worthiness Directive for 737 after Flight 110’s flight.
    That plane also needed body work due to the external hail damage.
    Not cheap.

  7. It bad for a 1 eyed pilot (shot in the eye while trying to fly civilians from a war).
    This needs to be just as remembered as the “Miracle on the Hudson”.
    The NTSB had to replace one engine and fly the plane off the levee because the plane started to sink into the earth.
    Without passengers, luggage, and minimal fuel the plane did one of the shortest takeoffs recorded for a 737.

  8. So there's a small possibility I could have flown on that aircraft through southwest! Likely not, I don't think I ever flew in a -300, I think most were -600 and up, but that's still crazy cool

  9. Hail on radar is it’s own challenge. Severe thunderstorms have strong updrafts(big white cauliflower clouds rising into the atmosphere). These updrafts will rotate into what’s called a meso-cyclone basically the engine of the storm where the tornado would eventually form toward the surface. These updrafts can & will suspend hail in the air for pretty long extended periods of time. The longer the hail is suspended the larger the hail. The area between the suspended hail & the hail falling is called the BWER(Bounded Weak Echo Region) on Radar. As mentioned the radar can get confused when you have high reflectivity or high winds causing it to show weak reflection. Also radar scans take up to 5-8 minutes a scan & a lot can happen during that time. New Orleans being on the Gulf Coast can have tremendous amounts of moisture in the atmosphere being next to the Gulf of Mexico. Doppler Radar was in its infancy in 1988 & anyone w knowledge ab radar knows Doppler shows wind speed & the direction of wind speed. It’s how we know when supercells are about to or are producing tornadoes. Love ur channel bro, keep kicking ass!

  10. Imo such levies offer a very good conditions to serve as an emergency landing strip. They are usually so soaked up with water and grassy, that they can absorb incredibely huge amounts of energy, giving a quite fair chance of survival even in such events as total flameout, or forced belly landing. And even in worse case scenario where plane disintegrates and fuel splills out, i believe its fair to say there still considerably lower chance of spill catching up the fire, than on tarmac, or gravel (or other hard surfaces)

  11. As always, your narrative is both riveting and accurate. I remember this incident well and your explanation of the dynamics of turbofan
    water ingestion and the TACA crew's outstanding performance was perfect. Technical accuracy combined with great story telling is a rare gift;
    please keep these stories coming!

  12. From the pictures of after the landing, you could easily mistake it as being a museum with a plane showing how the emergency exits work

  13. You sound like you are about to giggle at 9:34; your enthusiasm shows through and is infectious! Love your videos!

  14. Drew this while watching this video:
    https://www.redbubble.com/people/inspirescape/works/39832865-flameout-streak?asc=u

    Great vid!

  15. Point of correction… I assume Air Europe aircraft do not fly with Air New Zealand livery. I'm pretty sure Air New Zealand have no direct services to Greece as New Zealand is on the direct opposite side of the planet from Greece.

  16. I love this story, and you have told it brilliantly! I have flown with a certain airline for over 26 years now. Our 300 models have been out of service for some time now, but I wonder how many times I may have actually flown this airplane. What really makes me proud is the skill of our Hispanic brothers and sisters who fly in areas in North, South and Central America where intense convective weather is part of their daily flying. My hats off to them! BTW I'm not positive about this, but in addition, the Captain only had sight in one eye!

  17. Of all the things in the video that should not have happened…I’m glad that this video did indeed happen.

  18. When you got to the part about landing on the levee I recognized that this had to be a story I had seen on Discovery Channel (I think it was) years ago. It was indeed a happy ending – perhaps demonstrating greater piloting than Capt Sully, the famed landing on the Hudson.

  19. I really enjoy your videos. Have you ever done a video on Richard E. Hawes? He was an interesting naval hero few know.

  20. An important fact was missing, A fact that makes this feat even more remarkable. The capitain was half blind and could only see from 1 eye.

  21. Great piece of history, and you tell it with the perfect mix of factual depth, and wonder in your voice!

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