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Kegworth Air Disaster of 8th January 1989


The Kegworth Air Disaster occurred on the 8th of January 1989 when a British Midland Flight 92, a Boeing 737-400, crashed into the embankment of the M1 motorway near Kegworth, Leicestershire. The aircraft was attempting to conduct an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport. Of the 126 people onboard, 47 died and 74, includingseven members of the flight crew, sustained serious injuries.

The disaster was due to numerous causes, but however, before one delves into the causes, one need to get the background story first.
The aircraft was on a scheduled flight from London Heathrow Airport to Belfast in Northern Ireland (Pendleton, date unknown).
After taking off from Heathrow at 7.52pm, Flight 092 was climbing through28,300 feet to reach its nominal cruising altitude of 35,000 feet when one of the fan blades on the left engine suddenly ruptured (Pendleton, date unknown. While the pilots did not know the source of the problem, a pounding noise was suddenly heard, accompanied by severe vibrations. In addition, smoke poured into the cabin through the ventilation system and a smell of burning smoke entered theplane. Numerous passengers sitting near the rear of the plane reported smoke and sparks coming from the left engine.
The flight was therefore diverted to nearby East Midlands Airport. After the engine failure, the Captain then shut down the engine to prevent fuel from being pumped into it, which would be terminal. Smoke was no longer coming through the ventilation, which made the crew think theyhad dealt with the problem. However, that was far from the truth. The gliding aircraft narrowly missed the village of Kegworth and landed on the M1. A stones throw from the East Midlands Airport runway.

To explain the consequence of why the plane crashed, one needs to delve into the incident in more detail. It was due to two main factors, firstly the case of shutting down the wrong engine.The Captain, Kevin Hunt, believed that the right engine was malfunctioning due to the smell of smoke coming through the ventilation system because in previous Boeing 737 variants, the bleed air for the air conditioning system was taken from the right engine. However regarding the Boeing 737-400 version, Boeing redesigned the system to use bleed air from both engines. The Captain and crew werevirtually unaware of this. Numerous cabin staff and passengers noticed that the left engine had a stream of unburnt fuel igniting in the engine, but this information was not relayed onto the pilots because cabin staff erroneously assumed that the pilots were aware that the left engine was malfunctioning (A.A.I.B, 1990).

When the pilots shut down the right engine, they could no longer see andsmell the smoke, which therefore led them to assume that they had dealt with the predicament. As was revealed, this was simply a coincidence: when the autothrottle was disengaged to shut down the right jet engine, the fuel flow leading to the left engine was stopped, therefore the ongoing damage was reduced, the smoke smell died away, and the vibration reduced, although it would still have beenvisible on the vibration indicator (A.A.I.B, 1990). In the event of a malfunction, pilots are trained to check all meters and review all decisions, and Captain Hunt did so. Whilst he was conducting the review he was interrupted by a transmission from East Midlands Airport informing him that he could descend further to 12,000 feet (3, 700 m) in preparation for the diverted landing (A.A.I.B, 1990).He did not resume the review after the transmission ended, and instead initiated descent. The vibration indicators were smaller than on the previous versions of the 737 in which the pilots were more used to. The dial on the vibration meter had a diameter of around 2cms and the LED needle went around the outside of the dial rather than the inside of the dial as in the previous aircraft. The...
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