This is the story of Delta Airlines Flight 1080. It is a tale of bravery, skill, determination, and outstanding airmanship. Flight 1080 begins on the ground at San Diego International Airport on the 12th of April, 1977. The aircraft being flown is a Lockheed L-1011, a plane that was the future of aviation. The L-1011 was so advanced for its time that it could even land itself. The plane was a trijet, as many long haul planes were back then. The twin-engine plane couldn't fly over oceans due to the regulations in place at the time; four-engine airplanes were just too expensive to fly. So trijets were really popular at the time. The L-1011 was a safe aircraft to fly across oceans. In the cockpit was Captain Jack McMahan, co-pilot Well Rodford and second officer Steve Hite. Captain Jack McMahan was more experienced than the other two. He had been flying for thirty-six years. He has flown everything from biplanes to Wildcats in World War II and about a dozen passenger airlines. To say that he was experienced would be an understatement. They were flying out to Los Angeles International Airport with 11 crew and 52 passengers on board. After a taxi to the runway, the crew performed a controlled check to confirm that all their control surfaces were good to go. At 11:53 p.m., they lifted off from runway two-seven at San Diego International Airport. They were cleared to 10,000 feet. Immediately after takeoff, the plane nose's up instinctively. Captain Jack McMahan pushes the control column full forward. Frantically he checks the stabilizer settings; they all appeared normal, the plane somewhat stabilized, and they continued their ascent. At an altitude of about 400 feet, the plane began to pitch up again. This time the pitch up was even more severe, at about 18 degrees nose up. He tried pushing the control column fully forward to automatically trim the airplane. He also tries to manually trim the airplane to get the nose down, the plane did not respond. The L-1011 was built to be safe; it was packed full of tech and had four redundant hydraulic systems. The captain wasn't overly concerned at this point. He assumed that the flight engineers would sort out the issue as the flight progresses. The captain resets all the trim switches just to be sure; he had Steve Height checked the circuit breakers for any problems, but still, they could not figure out why the plane was pitching up. By 3000 feet, they had gone through all the emergency procedures they had to fix the issue, but nothing worked. They were in uncharted territory. All the while, both pilots were pushing down on the control columns to keep the plane's nose down. But despite their best efforts, the plane continued to pitch up and lose speed. They were about to stall, quoting the captain. "Suddenly, I had the horrifying realization that the loss of the aircraft was imminent. It appeared that the aircraft would enter a stall, with no control over the pitch to effect recovery, we would crash into the ocean." The captain was in a tough position. His plane was slowly slipping away from him; the time to react was as well slowly slipping away. In his mind, he knows what's going to happen if he doesn't react. The plane would stall, then roll to the left and descend vertically through the clouds to crash over the waters. A grim picture indeed. They say that accidents happen in threes. A week ago, a southern DC-nine had crashed, killing sixty-eight. A week before that, two jumbo jets collided at Teneriffe, killing five hundred and eighty-three. The captain thinks to himself, "My God, we're number three." He's doubtful that they'll ever make it back alive. His mind is still racing. He thinks if they were to crash, no one would ever know what really happened. Just another pilot who got disoriented as he took off over a dark sea on a dark night. As a pilot, he had read many reports that had exactly that; he could be the next report. But Captain McMahan wasn't going down without a fight. He was going to see this to the end, to quote him again. "Wait just a minute, we may lose this aircraft, but it won't be because we were not hanging in there, and it won't be because of pilot errors." He knows that he needs to get the nose of the aircraft down to gain airspeed. The engines are at takeoff power, barely keeping the plane airborne as its pitch controls are inoperable. He did the only thing he could, grabbing the throttles and pulling back power. In conventional scenarios, this would be suicidal. Reducing power on a plane about to stall is a death sentence. You're robbing the plane the power when it needs a lot to gain airspeed. But this crew was far beyond anything conventional. They've gone through every procedure in the book; they're barely hanging on. The plane begins to respond. He slowly increases power on engine number two-one on the tail. With the tail engine at max power, he staggers the throttles to a position where the left engine produces more power than the right engine. The plane began to stabilize. The nose was still up 20 degrees, and they were pushing down on the columns with hopes to kill the pitch up. They were at 9,500 feet and climbing slightly. The danger of stalling had subsided, for now. They were supposed to level off at 10,000 feet, but they shot right through that. Now they had a new problem; if they couldn't arrest their climb, eventually they could get to thirty or thirty-five thousand feet, lose airspeed and come crashing right back down. Approaching fourteen thousand feet, the captain reduces power on engines one and three. This aircraft slowly responded and slowly began their descent to 10,000 feet. With the nose up so high, the engines were working harder than usual to maintain level flight. They were flying on the razor's edge, too fast they'd climb and stall out any slower; they'd just drop from the sky. They went over all the emergency procedures again, just to be sure, and still, nothing worked. The captain asked the cabin crew to seat all passengers in the first few rows of the plane to get the nose down. When you're that desperate, every little part counts, and being a captain; you have to act like one. Now, they had the plane under control and weren't in any immediate danger. Riding the throttles, the captain got the plane to stabilize at 10,000 feet. The question on everyone's lips was, where do we land? They were halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Bad weather prevailed along the West Coast. So Los Angeles, Long Beach, and El Toro airports were out of the question. Palmdale or Edwards Air Force Base was a good option as the weather there was favorable. However, it was well past midnight, and they close at 10:00 p.m; it would take considerable time to get the airport to start and; runway lights turned on. With the fuel starting to run low, they didn't have that time. Las Vegas and Phenix were next on their list. But with the mountains in their way and the possibility of turbulence, they crossed those off the list too. There was no telling what turbulence would do to a plane that's crippled. With their hands tied, they decided to head for Los Angeles. Los Angeles had a lot of airspaces to maneuver, and runway six-right had a straight-in approach. They asked the tower for an eighteen-mile straight-in approach onto runway six-right. They had decided on the where, but now they had to decide on the how. How would they get this multi-ton airliner which they could barely control on the ground? A normal landing was out of the question. The captain worried that the plane would just float along the runway on a cushion of air and eventually crash at the end. Moreover, the captain worried that flaring the airplane would make it climb uncontrollably and crash onto the runway. A flare is a procedure done by pilots to soften landings right before touchdown; they usually pull back just a bit so that the touchdown is smooth. This is why the crew selected for a straight-in approach to runway six-right, which takes them over the water if something were to go wrong and they wouldn't be putting anyone at risk. Captain McMahan thought to himself, "if we lose it, we lose it over the ocean." Slowly in an attempt to prepare the plane for landing, the captain extended the flaps bit by bit. They had no idea how the plane would react. For all they knew, extending the flaps might send them careening into the ocean at four degrees. The nose dropped down slightly for the first time throughout the flight. They could slightly ease off the control columns, which they had been pushing forward the entire flight; they must be exhausted by this point. They tried the autopilot to see if it could get the nose down, but the plane pitched up; they disengaged it. They got down to 5,000 feet with no outside references then intercepted the localizer for runway six-right. The plane was still pitching up precariously. The landing was a go. They were maintaining; 180 knots (333 km/h), way too fast for a normal landing. I imagine they were grateful just to be lined up with the runway. They stayed on the glideslope by bearing thrust; it was a delicate balancing act. For the first time since San Diego, they felt hopeful; they had almost made it. The only thing to do was dropping the landing gear and; extending the flaps to twenty-two degrees. At 2,500 feet upon dropping the landing gear, the plane lurched into the air, sending them above the glideslope. The captain had to act fast. He only had one shot at this landing. He thought about ditching along the coast; as he pushed the control forward with all his remaining energy. All that they had worked for was beginning to unravel in a last-ditch effort. The captain increased power to the tail engine and pulled back power to the wing engines. He coaxed the wounded plane back onto the right slope, thanks to his sheer determination and amazing skills. 700 feet above the ground, they broke through the clouds. They saw runway six-right for the first time that night, they were so close, and the plane was stable. So they opted not to mess with the flaps anymore. They hit the runway at 165 knots (306 km/h). The plane was still pitching up, so they had to hit the brakes just to get the nose to drop. Co-pilot Radford read out the speed. "A hundred and thirty, one-twenty, one-ten, a hundred, ninety, eighty, seventy, sixty knots. Thank God", he says. They were coming to a stop. The tower comes on and says, "Well, Delta 1080, everything okay?" The captain replied, "tell them we're all right. We'll take it to the gate". Against all odds, the crew of Flight 1080 had flown a plane without its most basic control surfaces, and they had won. An investigation revealed that the left elevator had jammed in the upward position, which caused the plane's nose to pitch up. Water from the rain and fog the plane had flown through; collected inside the tail corroding a bearing. The corroded bearing broke as the crew performed their pre-takeoff checklist; the crew performed admirably. This could easily be a disaster. They handled it so well; in fact, they had no customer complain about the delay getting into Los Angeles. Was it God's intervention or Just the Captain's resilience and determination? Share your views in the comment section below. Remember to like, share, and follow my channel for more interesting articles. Thank you for reading till the end.
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