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Which Tragedy Taught Aviation an Important Lesson About Lightning? — #TBT Week of June 21

Which Tragedy Taught Aviation an Important Lesson About Lightning? — #TBT Week of June 21
Joe Cortez

In the spirit of #TBT (“Throwback Thursday,” not Brazil’s Tabatinga Airport) FlyerTalk takes a look back at the events that helped shape modern aviation. Here are just a few moments from history that changed the face of the industry during the week of June 21.


June 21, 1987

Recreating nearly the exact route of Howard Hughes’ around-the-world flight, pilot Partick Fourticq and his crew of three landed their Lockheed 18 in France on the final day of the Paris Air Show. Despite denials by the Soviet Union to fly in their airspace and problems with the aircraft (which included spark plug and heater issues), the group completed the trip around the world in 88 hours and 48 minutes.

By beating Hughes’ record by over two hours, Fourticq and his group entered the record books for the second time in their careers. 

June 22, 1962

Investigators were baffled by the crash of Air France Flight 117, a four-month-old Boeing 707. A planned multi-stop flight from Paris to Santiago, the aircraft crashed after losing direction during a thunderstorm and attempting to land nearly 10 miles away from the airport.

All 113 souls were lost when the aircraft came down and exploded. While no official cause was determined, many investigators believe weather conditions and broken ground equipment contributed to the crash. 

June 23, 1985

While midair en-route to London Heathrow Airport (LHR), Air India Flight 182 became the first Boeing 747 destroyed by a bomb. While above Irish airspace, a bomb exploded in the forward cargo hold, causing rapid depressurization and the ultimate breakup of the aircraft.

All 329 aboard the aircraft, including 22 crew members, were killed by the explosion. Canadian law enforcement officials believed the Babbar Khalsa group responsible for the bombing, convicting one person for their involvement. The attack was the deadliest aviation terrorism event prior to the September 11 attacks.

June 24, 1982

Thanks to the quick thinking of the pilot and flight crew of British Airways Flight 9, the aircraft was able to survive flying through a volcanic ash cloud. After entering the ash cloud from Mount Galunggung, all four engines aboard the Boeing 747 failed, causing the crew to take emergency action.

The pilot glided the aircraft until the engines could be restarted and the 747 landed safety in Jakarta without further incident. Less than three weeks later, the airspace around Mount Galunggung was permanently closed.

June 25 1919

Credited as one of the first modern commercial aircraft suitable for transporting passengers, the Junkers F.13 celebrated its first flight in Germany. The small airplane was the first all-metal transport, capable of accommodating four passengers.

Over 300 of the Junkers F.13 would be sold and were popular with early European airlines like Deutsche Luft Hansa and LOT Polish Airlines. 

June 26, 1959

After being struck by lightning after departing from Italy’s Milan–Malpensa Airport (MXP), TWA Flight 891 exploded, resulting in a midair break up and crash. All 68 people on board were killed, making it both the worst air crash of the year and the first fatal crash of a Lockheed Starliner.

The investigation revealed that the lightning strike may have ignited fuel vapors in one of the fuel tanks, causing the explosion and breakup. However, investigators would not make a formal request to change aircraft design until the crash of Pan Am Flight 214 — over four years later. 

June 27, 1976

After departing from Athens en-route to Paris, Air France Flight 139 was hijacked by two Palestinians and two Germans. The flight would be ultimately redirected to Uganda, where they received the support of Ugandan military forces. The hijackers outlined a number of demands in Uganda, including a $5 million ransom for the Airbus A300 aircraft.

The situation came to a head one week later as Israeli forces attacked the abandoned airport the passengers were being held at during Operation Entebbe.


[Photo: FAA]

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1 Comment

  1. fedup flyer

    June 30, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Hey, look.
    i can write an article about completely unrelated incidents/accidents just to fill space.
    Surprised there wasn’t a blurb about big foot or ETs.

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