What if they crashed?
In the previous post, I talked about the discrepancy regarding the altitude TWA 841 recovered from the dive. The bottom line is that at the speeds they were descending they were at most a few seconds from spiraling right into the ground whether they were at 5,000 feet or 50 feet. At one point in the investigation, during one of the Sunshine meetings, NTSB Chairman James B. King made the comment that their jobs would have been easier had the plane crashed, suggesting that the CVR would have revealed the crew’s involvement.
Recently I learned of another accident that had some eerie similarities with TWA 841 – SilkAir Flight 185. SilkAir Flight 185 was a Boeing 737 that rolled over and spiraled down from an altitude of 35,000 feet. Unlike TWA 841, they weren’t so lucky. They crashed into the Musi River near Palembang, Sumatra. There were no survivors. The accident occurred on December 19, 1997, three years after USAir Flight 427 and while that investigation was still ongoing.
The flight data recorder and the CVR were recovered, but both stopped recording prior to the accident. The crew came under suspicion. The Indonesian Transportation Safety Committee was unable to determine a cause of the accident. The NTSB, which participated in the investigation, concluded that the captain deliberately crashed the plane committing suicide.
The plane had the same dual concentric rudder servo valve that brought down United Flight 585 and USAir Flight 427. Rather than explain what happened next, I’ll let you watch the excellent documentary on the accident and investigation (assuming it’s not taken down for copyright infringement by the Youtube user who posted it.)
The film is not the best quality. There are some video and sound issues. But if you have an hour to kill, I think you’ll find this a fascinating look at what easily could have been the fate of the TWA 841 crew had they not put the gear out when they did. (Thanks to Leigh Johnson for bringing this story to my attention.)