One sentence Synopsis
The true story of an airline crew wrongly blamed for causing a near-fatal accident and the captain’s decades-long battle to clear his name.
200-word Synopsis (from the back cover)
On April 4, 1979, a Boeing 727 with 82 passengers and a crew of 7 rolled over and plummeted from an altitude of 39,000 feet to within seconds of crashing were it not for the crew’s actions to save the plane. The cause of the unexplained dive was the subject of one of the longest NTSB investigations at that time.
While the crew’s efforts to save TWA 841 were initially hailed as heroic, that all changed when safety inspectors discovered that twenty-one minutes of the thirty-minute cockpit voice recorder tape were blank. The captain of the flight, Harvey “Hoot” Gibson, subsequently came under suspicion for deliberately erasing the tape in an effort to hide incriminating evidence. The voice recorder was never evaluated for any deficiencies.
From that moment on, the investigation was focused on the crew to the exclusion of all other evidence. It was an investigation based on rumors, innuendos, and speculation. Eventually the NTSB, despite sworn testimony to the contrary, blamed the crew for the incident by having improperly manipulated the controls, leading to the dive.
This is the story of an NTSB investigation gone awry and one pilot’s decades-long battle to clear his name.
300 word Synopsis
On April 4, 1979, TWA 841, a Boeing 727 in cruise over Michigan, rolled over and entered an uncontrollable spiral dive. The crew managed to recover seconds from impact. Thus began one of the longest NTSB investigations in the agency’s history.
While initially hailed as heroes, the crew came under suspicion when investigators discovered that 21 minutes of the 30-minute cockpit voice recorder tape were blank. From that moment on investigators turned their focus on the crew. After a contentious two-year investigation, the NTSB blamed the crew for causing the dive by improperly manipulating the flight controls. But did the investigators get it right? Did they miss important clues that should have sent them in a totally different direction? Was there a connection between TWA 841 and a series of rollover accidents in the 90s?
At the heart of this story is a mystery. What caused an airliner to roll over and dive some 39,000 feet? The answer to that mystery isn’t solved until nearly eight years after the incident. It takes the efforts of a retired aeronautical engineer and a lone pilot investigator, neither of whom took part in the original investigation, to finally piece together the evidence pointing to a probable cause not considered by the original investigators. Along the way, there is a twenty-million-dollar libel suit filed by the captain against Boeing and the NTSB, a civil trial where the entire investigation is reexamined in front of a jury, and a conflict between the credibility of a flight crew against the integrity of the most popular aircraft in the world.
The book Scapegoat by Odyssey Publishing and author Emilio Corsetti III is the true story of an NTSB investigation gone awry and one pilot’s decades-long battle to clear his name.