Mayday (2013) s05e06 Episode Script

Southern Storm

(THEME MUSIC) Boarding pass? Thank you.
- Good afternoon, sir.
- Good afternoon.
- May I see your boarding pass? - Certainly.
Just down the aisle on the right, sir.
- Enjoy your flight.
- Thank you.
Boarding pass? NARRATOR: 81 passengers board Southern Airways Flight 242, a DC-9 bound for Atlanta, Georgia.
Many of them are military personnel from nearby bases.
Captain Bill McKenzie and First Officer Lyman Keele have been shuttling passengers across the American south all day.
Who's got the landing? "Not me," says the captain.
Ignition, sir.
Pilots regularly exchange tasks on long days like this one.
First Officer Lyman Keele will be handling this leg of the flight.
He's an experienced navy pilot who's been with Southern Airways for four years.
Before their last take-off, the crew was handed a weather report for the airports along their route.
Look like you guys got a good one coming.
(INDISTINCT RADIO CHATTER) The DC-9 was introduced in 1965 to fly frequent short flights.
Both of its engines are mounted to the rear fuselage rather than the wings.
It was designed for take-off on shorter runways.
We had a 13-landing day, which was a lot of small stops, you know, about 20- or 30-minute legs in between.
And it was sort of the tour of the south.
Skies have been smooth all afternoon but the weather's worsening.
The flight crew is prepared for turbulence.
(THUNDER CRACKS) It was raining in Huntsville and they said, "Oh, it's going to be some bad weather.
Don't serve.
" So we did not serve from Huntsville to Atlanta, which is a very short route.
And we were delighted not to be serving.
At 3:54pm, the DC-9 takes off into a hard rain.
The short hop to Atlanta should take just 25 minutes.
As Southern Airways 242 flies away from Huntsville, the National Weather Service tracks weather that's far worse than the pilots expect.
Tornadoes are touching down all across the south.
MAN: The weather in the south-east in the United States can be very treacherous.
High humidities, high temperatures are a prescription for thunderstorms.
And so, with all of that kind of moisture in the air and the high convective heating, you're going to have very large thunderstorms that are associated with heavy rains, hail, icing conditions and extreme winds.
And, of course, tornadoes that will be spawned from that kind of action.
Huntsville Air Traffic Control have some concerns about the gathering storm.
Southern Airways 242, I am painting a line of weather which appears to be moderate to possibly heavy precipitation.
Starting about five miles ahead.
Er, OK.
Yeah, we're in the rain right now.
It doesn't look much heavier than what we're in right now, does it? It's not a solid mass but it appears to be a little bit heavier than what you're in right now.
In 1977, most airliners are equipped with the Bendix weather radar.
Pilots are trained to avoid regions that appear bright.
Where there's light, there's bad weather.
KEELE: I can't read that.
It just looks like rain, Bill.
What do you think? - There's a hole.
- There's a hole right there.
That's all I see.
The pilots spot a dark area on their radar, a passageway through the storm.
They plan to navigate between towering thunder heads over 14,000m.
Coming over, we had pretty good radar.
I believe right straight ahead, there.
The next few miles is probably the best way we can go.
But as they head towards the storm system, they get an ominous report from Memphis Air Traffic Control.
MAN: (OVER RADIO) Attention all aircraft.
SIGMET - Tennessee, southern Louisiana, Mississippi SIGMET is short for 'significant meteorological information'.
A warning to pilots that dangerous weather is in the region.
Pilots don't want to be within 50 miles of a lot of those types of thunderstorms for the very reason that the airplane may not be able to handle it and/or the pilots may not be able to control the airplane flying into that kind of activity.
Mysteriously, the gap the pilots thought they'd spotted no longer seems to exist.
- That's the hole, isn't it? - It's not showing a hole, is it? (LOUD CLATTER) (CLATTER CONTINUES) The storm suddenly gets much worse.
Never heard such loud hail in my life.
And then beating on the sides of the airplane was extremely deafening.
MAN: The hail was probably the loudest noise I've ever heard.
It sounded like I was in a metal barrel with someone throwing rocks at me.
Please keep your seatbelts fastened.
We should be out of this shortly.
Hail the size of baseballs hammers the DC-9 .
.
breaking the plane's windshield.
The pilots of Southern 242 had to raise their voices audibly to be heard above the unholy tattoo of this hail which was buckshotting the airplane.
These pilots had never been through anything like this in their lives.
Which way do we cross here to go out? I don't know how we get through here, Bill.
- You're just gonna have to go out.
- Yeah.
Right across that band.
All clear - left.
Approximately right now.
I think we can cut across there.
McKenzie and Keele desperately seek an escape route from the storm.
But as they do, the emergency escalates.
The plane loses all electrical power.
(ALARMS BLARE) Without power, Keele must keep the aircraft level without an artificial horizon.
Now the pilots are left to look back out the window and try and orient the airplane with the horizon.
But surrounded by thick cloud, a horizon is difficult to find.
It's almost impossible for Lyman Keele to get his bearings.
Southern 242, what's your speed? Atlanta Air Traffic Control tries to make contact with Southern Airways.
They receive no response.
Southern 242, Atlanta.
What's your speed? After I realised that we had a disaster in progress or something was wrong, I got up and starting briefing my passengers.
There's an emergency.
Keep your seatbelt fastened.
The flight attendants were very quick in giving us emergency landing instructions.
There was not very much time for anyone to start panicking.
(SPEAKS SOFTLY) (ALARMS BLARE) We got it back.
We got it back, Bill.
We've got it back.
We've got it back.
After 36 seconds in the dark, power returns.
The instruments come alive and the radio begins working again.
Air Traffic Control finally gets through to McKenzie and Keele.
MAN: (OVER RADIO) Maintain 15,000 if you understand me.
Maintain 15,000, Southern 242.
Southern Airways Flight 242 has been instructed to fly at 4,600m.
But the plane has fallen to almost 4,200m.
(ENGINE WHIRRS) We're trying to get it up there.
MAN: While I was looking out at the front of the left engine, I could see the hail continuing to put more and more dents into the cowling around the engine and into the column in the centre of the engine.
And the engine was starting to make sounds like it was quitting.
(METAL CLATTERS) (ALARMS BLARE) OK, er, 242.
We just got our windshield busted.
We'll try to get it back up to 15,000.
We're at 14,000.
Southern 242, you say you're at 14,000 now.
(SPEAKS INDISTINCTLY OVER RADIO) Left engine won't spool.
My left engine just cut out.
You say you lost an engine and busted a windshield? Yes, sir.
Oh, my God.
The other engine's going too.
Got the other engine going too.
Southern 242, say again.
Stand by.
(ALARMS BLARE) (ALARMS STOP) We lost both engines.
Both engines are now out.
This DC-9 is a glider and it's falling at 56 feet per second.
They're at 14,000 feet.
They don't have a lot of time.
(THUNDER CRACKS) Get us a vector to a clear area, Atlanta.
Lyman Keele adjusts his course to navigate his plane out of the storm.
Captain McKenzie must restart the engines or they'll be forced to make an emergency landing.
There we go.
After two minutes without systems, the auxiliary power unit finally kicks in.
The pilots may not have engines but at least they now have power.
We lost both engines.
How about getting us a vector to the nearest place? Captain McKenzie needs directions to an airport.
The flight can only stay airborne for another six minutes.
Dobbins Air Force Base is 32km away.
It has a runway that's long enough for a DC-9.
It also has full emergency services.
Southern 242, roger.
Turn right, heading 1-0-0.
Will be vectors for a straight-in approach to Dobbins.
Er, runway 1-1.
What's Dobbins' weather, Bill? How far is it? How far is it? Lyman Keele knows Dobbins Air Force Base intimately.
He trained there.
And it's now his home base as a navy reserve pilot.
He's landed there frequently.
Declare an emergency, Bill.
Right now, Keele's familiarity with Dobbins is the only advantage this crew has.
Less than 16km away lies the town of New Hope, Georgia.
Sadie Hurst sees no signs of an advancing storm.
It was an absolutely beautiful day.
The children were playing outside.
They were riding their bicycles up and down the driveway.
(PHONE RINGS) Hello? Hey, you.
My husband worked in Atlanta and he kept his radio on the Huntsville radio station.
And he called me and he said, "Honey, "we've got some bad weather coming in.
" He said, "You need to get the kids in.
" (DOOR OPENS) Boys, come on in now.
Nasty weather's coming.
Come in now.
Alright, flashlights and batteries, Steven.
Ordinarily, tornadoes come with bad weather.
You know, dark clouds and rain and hail.
But we didn't see any of that.
Southern Airways 242 finally breaks through the storm clouds, into clear skies.
The plane descends steadily through 2,100m.
Get those engines started.
FEITH: Once the engines failed, the workload in the cockpit increased substantially.
In this particular instance, the first officer was the - quote - pilot flying.
He was the one that was actually manipulating the flight controls and manoeuvring in the airplane.
The captain, on the other hand, was now running checklist and trying to troubleshoot.
Listen, er, we lost both engines and, er, I can't tell you the implications of this, er We've only got two engines.
And how far is Dobbins now? Southern 242, 19 miles.
Do you have one engine running now? Negative.
Down to only 1,400m, the plane is still 27km from Dobbins Air Force Base.
Ask him if there's anything between here and Dobbins.
What? Ask him if there's anything between here and Dobbins! Er .
.
is there an airport between our position and Dobbins? Southern 242, er, no, sir.
The closest airport is Dobbins.
First Officer Lyman Keele doesn't think he can get the DC-9 as far as Dobbins Air Force Base.
He's lost too much altitude.
Er, I doubt we're gonna make it.
But we're trying everything to get something started.
Er, roger.
Well, there is Cartersville.
You're about 10 miles south of Cartersville, 15 miles west of Dobbins.
Keele needs a closer airport.
Cartersville seems like a good choice.
We'll take a vector to that, yes.
We'll have to go there.
Can you give us a vector to Cartersville? Alright.
Turn left, heading 360.
We'll be directly, er direct vector to Cartersville.
Air traffic controllers in Atlanta see no other options.
They direct Flight 242 to Cartersville Airport.
As the pilots seek out an airport, the flight attendants still don't know what type of landing to prepare for.
They wouldn't talk to me.
When I looked in the door, the whole windshield was cracked.
So, what do we do? I think we've lost both the engines.
I thought so.
(SIGHS) OK.
Cathy, have you briefed all your passengers? Mm-hm.
MAN: I realised I was in an emergency situation and I felt like I was going to die.
But I decided I would do everything I could to try to help my chances.
I had previously collected some blankets, some pillows and had gotten my leather jacket off the overhead rack.
And I arranged those to make a nest as much as I could for myself.
With tornadoes in the forecast, the community of New Hope is braced for a different type of danger.
After a couple of hours of playing outside, my mother called us in, to come in because there was bad weather coming our way.
We came into the house and Mother had told us about what was going on and she said that we needed to get downstairs to prepare for the bad weather that was coming.
Southern Airways Flight 242 has lost too much altitude.
The pilots come to the frightening conclusion that at the rate they're falling, they can't make it to Cartersville.
They must prepare to land now.
I'm picking out a clear field.
- You have to find me a highway.
- Let's get the next clear open field.
No, Bill! I see a highway over there.
No cars.
Right there.
Is that straight? No.
We'll have to take it.
Lyman Keele decides to bring the plane down onto a rural highway, Georgia State Highway 92.
Captain Bill McKenzie radios Atlanta Air Traffic Control with the bad news.
We're putting it on the highway.
We're down to nothing.
The clock runs out on Southern Airways 242.
Sweet Jesus! With no engines, first officer Lyman Keele lines up the aircraft for an emergency landing on the highway that runs through New Hope, Georgia.
In the last minute we did a steep left bank in which we were able to see the pine trees that were very close to the aircraft.
Flaps.
- You're down to 50.
- Oh, God, Bill.
I hope we can do it.
Without training on how to land a DC-9 with no engines, first officer Lyman Keele's attempt is entirely improvised.
Lyman Keele is a young man who has just come back from the proving ground of Southeast Asia, where he was a naval aviator.
He learned the niceties of landing on a rolling, pitching aircraft carrier in the South China Sea in the middle of the night.
What he was confronted with right now was even a greater test.
The greatest test he had ever confronted in his life as an airman.
I'm going to land right over that guy.
There's a car ahead.
I got it.
I got it now.
I got it.
Brace for impact! The Southern Airways flight touches down on State Highway 92.
When the aircraft touched down, the first touchdown was very, very nice.
It was smooth.
It seemed like it was going to work and everything would turn out OK.
Then it immediately bounced back up in the air and slammed down.
Each bump that we made seemed to be harder and louder than the previous one.
The plane smashes into New Hope.
(BANG!) Before the plane completely stopped moving, there was fire blowing through the cabin.
I felt my face burning, even though I tried to cover it with my leather jacket.
(LOUD RUMBLING AND ROARING) We heard this tremendous noise.
Large sections of Southern Airways 242 litter the entire length of New Hope.
(COUGHS) Come on, dammit! Ahh! I got my seatbelt loose after a few tries, and turned toward the rear of the airplane and I saw a spot of light.
I got up and ran for that light.
(GASPS) I could not believe I was alive.
I just could not believe it.
CATHY: Where I found myself after we woke up is sorta indescribable.
I was sitting by the front entry door.
We have a coat closet that was adjacent to it, and the back wall that the jump seat's strapped to.
All three of those walls had collapsed and rolled into a little triangle ball area.
And there was just enough room for me inside.
And I could see a crack of light, and I thought, "I'm going through that crack of light, come hell or high water.
" In the very next instant, as if I had just blinked my eyes, instead of seeing the carpet between my feet, I suddenly was looking at blue sky above me.
I realised I was lying flat on my back in the dirt.
Everything to the left of me was flaming wreckage.
I didn't even recognise it as being the plane that I had just been thrown out of.
I thought it was maybe a house that we had hit.
Stewardess Sandy Purl also escaped safely.
She's able to help others.
Survivors flee the flaming wreckage.
When I got to the top of the basement steps to close the door, I saw a red reflection, like fire, in the door.
That's when I saw what was happening.
I saw smoke and fire.
And the people that were coming toward me, they weren't screaming, they weren't yelling - they were quiet.
Everything was on fire, and I could see people running toward a house.
I need to use your phone.
I wanted to call the local people, or Southern or somebody and say, "We've just landed somewhere and we need help.
" I got back to the kitchen and I was just circled by people.
They knew they were in a house, and I guess they felt safe.
They needed somebody to help 'em.
I was still frantic.
I was still trying to move as quickly as possible and do as much as I could at the time.
I'll remember to the day I die just staring there, at the trees burning - pine trees burning - and pieces of aircraft.
It was so unreal.
Never seen anything like it, and never want to see anything like that again.
72 people, including pilots Lyman Keele and Bill McKenzie die in the crash of Southern Airways Flight 242.
Investigators would soon uncover a tragic series of miscues and coincidences that caused the plane to crash.
The storm that Flight 242 flew into was a monster.
Why had a crew so familiar with weather in the south flown headfirst into it? That's a hole, isn't it? It's not showing a hole, is it? Investigators listen to the cockpit voice recorder for any clues about the decisions made by the crew as they were entering the thunderstorm.
- That's a hole, isn't it? - It's not showing a hole, is it? They learn that the pilots relied heavily on their weather radar as they approached the storm.
But it appears to have deceived them.
All clear left, approximately right now.
I think we can cut across there.
One of the limitations of the radar that the crew of Flight 242 was using is signal attenuation.
The beam that is projected from the radar unit out to look at the weather and return is diffused so that the picture that is depicted in the cockpit that the crew is looking at may not be accurate.
Weather radar sends out radio waves.
Those waves bounce off storm clouds ahead and return to the aircraft.
But if precipitation is extremely intense, the radio waves can be deflected away.
The radar unit might then interpret the lack of returning waves as a clear path ahead.
Those inaccuracies are hard to decipher.
If the crew is depending solely or very intently on the radar to guide them through the precipitation, they may be making decisions that aren't based on accurate information.
The storm that entangled Southern Airways 242 is one of the worst to hit the United States in three years.
The crew didn't encounter a tornado, but it was battered by torrential rain and heavy hail.
Which way do we cross here to go out? I don't know how we'll get through here, Bill.
What Keele and McKenzie read as a clear area ahead was in fact the heaviest part of the storm.
They flew straight for it.
- The other engine's going too.
- Got the other engine going too.
Southern 242, say again.
- (HAIL BATTERS COCKPIT) - Stand by.
We lost both engines.
Once inside the storm, the DC-9's engines failed.
But a turbo fan engine is designed to ingest huge amounts of rain and even hail.
Precipitation alone should not have shut them down.
Investigators study what's left of the DC-9's engines for clues.
They need to know if some mechanical failure caused both engines to fail inside the storm.
Well, initially I was puzzled as to how the engines could be involved in the cause of this accident.
But I was very anxious to get there to see the engines myself to find out if there was any sort of visible failure in the engines.
Pratt and Whitney, the manufacturer of the engines, assigns Al Weaver to advise the NTSB investigation.
The engines are moved to Atlanta Airport for a closer inspection.
When they lifted the engines up in the vertical direction in the hangar, I could hear the tinkling, and pieces fell out through the front of the engine onto the floor.
I reached over and picked up those pieces, and I recognised them immediately as part of the high-compressor blading deep inside the engine.
Al Weaver discovers that the pieces that fell from the engine were broken blades from the compressor.
Jet engines need pressurised air for combustion.
Two separate compressors inside the engine are made up of dozens of steel blades.
The rapidly spinning blades force air to the back of the engine.
The pressurised air is ignited in the combustion chamber, creating thrust.
Weaver notices that the compressor blades from Flight 242 are badly bent, or fatigued.
The way they're bent tells him they were damaged in the air - not when the plane hit the ground.
We know that that fatiguing, and the type of fatigue that we could observe with our eye, is caused by the repetitive surging of the engine, over and over.
A surge occurs when the airflow through an engine gets interrupted.
Pressure builds up between the compressors instead of behind them.
Without the back pressure, air from the combustion chamber moves to the front of the engine.
The engine briefly loses power.
Next, investigators need to find out if the repetitive surging was caused by the engines inhaling massive amounts of rain.
When an engine ingests rain, it has to convert it into a gas before it can pump it out as exhaust.
That process uses energy and slows down the engines.
Investigators conclude that with so much rain to convert, the engines couldn't maintain enough power to run the generators.
That's what caused the first power outage.
But it doesn't explain why the engines failed completely.
That's a hole, isn't it? It's not showing a hole, is it? (CRASH!) People who survived the crash describe seeing hail the size of baseballs.
It was powerful enough to break the plane's 3.
5cm-thick windshield.
Al Weaver discovers significant hail damage on both of the plane's engine cowlings.
WEAVER: Starting at the front of the engine we noted that the inlet cowl and the centre body that streamlines the airflow going into the engine, which are parts of the aircraft structure, and made out of aluminium, were all dented from both engines.
And that led us to suspect that the existence of the hail might have been a significant contributor.
Weaver knows that it would take a powerful force to damage the hard metal compressor blades.
We knew from the examination mechanically of the engines that the hail itself did not cause any damage to the engine.
It only dented the outside of the covering over the engine.
Heavy precipitation and a damaged cowling could have interrupted the engine's airflow and caused a surge, but one surge shouldn't tear an engine apart.
Weaver suspects that massive pieces of hail may have clogged a vital outlet in the plane's engines - the bleed valves.
When pressure builds between the two compressors bleed valves should open automatically to release that pressure and clear the surge.
If the bleed valves were blocked the engines would have continued to surge over and over again.
Once the engine began to surge .
.
the action that the pilot should have taken was to pull the throttles back to clear the surge.
Al Weaver turns to the cockpit voice recorder and discovers that the circumstances may have caused the crew to do the exact opposite.
Maintain 15,000, Southern 242.
We're trying to get it up there.
Weaver learns that the crew was asked to climb while in the heart of the storm.
Maintain 15,000 if you understand me.
Maintain 15,000, Southern 242.
In order to climb, the captain had to increase thrust to his engines which would have made matters worse.
But if the surge was not cleared and allowed to continue then the engine would simply break itself internally.
We're trying to get it up there! Advancing the throttles would only worsen the situation.
With its bleed cavities blocked by hail, pressure built up inside the engines, bending the compressor blades until they shattered.
Left engine won't spool! Our left engine just cut out.
WEAVER: And once the blades broke in the compressor, then the engine has no hope of ever working again.
Investigators now understand how the pilots misread the storm and how their engines failed as a result of it.
But they don't know why the pilots weren't warned that there was such a severe storm in their path.
- Who's got the landing? - Not me.
- Says the captain.
- Ignition, sir.
As the pilots prepared to depart Huntsville they did have a weather report from Southern Airways but the information was already hours old.
Looks like you guys got a good one coming.
FEITH: Southern Airways dispatch did not have updated information.
They didn't subscribe to the National Weather Service's update system.
They did have a subscription to a service that required them to dial up and receive the information.
When the dispatcher called the phone number to get the updated information it was busy and never pursued it and was not able to provide any kind of update information to the crew of 242.
Southern Airways 242, I am painting a line of weather which appears to be moderate to possibly heavy precipitation starting about five miles ahead.
FEITH: Could Huntsville have provided better weather information? Absolutely.
But in the course of doing their job, they provided localised weather information about an intense thunderstorm or rain shower that was moving over the airport.
They were only responsible, really, for about 40 nautical miles.
What the crew of Flight 242 was looking at was well beyond 40 miles.
When investigators analyse the flight path of Southern Airways 242, they discover one more deadly oversight.
FEITH: From the time the crew realised that they had no engine power till the time it touched down, was about nine minutes.
So in looking at the critical decision-making they had about seven minutes of solid critical decision-making before they were committed to that emergency landing on the highway.
Get us a vector to a clear area, Atlanta.
After the engines failed, the pilots made a 180-degree turn towards the west, looking for an escape from the storm.
That takes them directly away from Dobbins Air Force Base.
The turn takes the pilots out of the hailstorm but leaves them further away from a runway.
They also lose minutes of valuable flying time.
Only once the pilots escape the hailstorm do they turn again towards Dobbins.
Is there an airport between our position and Dobbins? Southern 242, no, sir.
Closest airport is Dobbins.
Had they maintained that course to Dobbins rather than make the turns or try to find another airport they probably would have had a better success rate and definitely a better survival rate.
Southern 242, roger.
Turn right heading 1-0-0.
Will be vectors for a straight-in approach to Dobbins.
Er, runway 1-1.
By the time McKenzie received the instructions, Southern Airways 242 had been flying away from Dobbins for too long.
The plane was simply too far and flying too low to make it there.
Declare an emergency, Bill.
But there was one last missed opportunity to save Flight 242.
Investigators learn that just as McKenzie and Keele were directed towards Dobbins Air Force Base, they were right above another runway.
Cornelius Moore Airport.
I thought we would land at Cornelius Moore Airport because I was familiar with that airport.
I had flown many times in our aeroplane back and forth between Dacatur and Atlanta.
Investigators learn that Cornelius Moore was just out of range of radar at Atlanta Approach Control.
They didn't know it existed.
They could not direct Southern Airways 242 there because they couldn't see it on their screens.
When I learned that the controllers in Atlanta didn't know about the Cornelius Moore Airport in Cartersville I was upset because we went within, I think, three or four miles of that airport.
Had a 4,000ft runway and even though some of the controllers thought it was too short, it sure would have been better than that highway we landed on.
I was very, very angry.
It was such a futile reaction.
You know, there was such a waste of life, that .
.
I was sad.
The NTSB investigation concludes that the catastrophic failure of the turbo fan engines and the failure to convey sufficient information on the storm to the pilots are the causes of the crash of Southern Airways 242.
The NTSB acts immediately.
It issues a recommendation that weather radar systems aboard planes and in air traffic control centres be upgraded to better portray weather systems.
In today's commercial aircraft, pilots have available to them colour weather radar.
It's radar that will depict in various colour bands the intensity of the precipitation.
The crash of Southern Airways 242 also leads to a better understanding of how engines should be managed in heavy precipitation.
WEAVER: We once again reaffirmed to the pilots the importance not to allow the engine to continue operation in continual surging.
If there is a surge condition for any reason, you should clear the surge because if you didn't clear the surge and allowed it to operate, it would break eventually.
In every air crash, investigators try to determine whether or not the accident was survivable.
FEITH: When you look at the survivability in an aircraft accident you can definitively say that the design of the seat contributed to the survival factors aspects.
But the statistics that bear out whether sitting in the front of the aeroplane is safer, the middle of the aeroplane is safer or the back of aeroplane is safer - don't exist.
In this particular instance, a surviving passenger, Don Foster, was quick-thinking.
He put a leather jacket over his head and used a pillow as a buffer between the seat in front of him and his face.
That probably saved his life from the standpoint that it minimised any injuries he would have suffered.
In fact, the NTSB believes that if flight attendants had distributed blankets and pillows to the passengers there would have been fewer injuries as a result of the crash.
We learn from every aeroplane crash.
We learnt from this one.
We learnt that the communication broke down within the FAA, within Southern Airways, even within the cockpit of that DC-9.
What we didn't ultimately learn, though, is the most important lesson and that is awesome respect for mother nature and what mother nature can do.
30 years have passed since Southern Airways 242 crashed through the small community of New Hope, Georgia.
Every 10 years since the crash, survivors of the tragedy gather at a church in New Hope.
They remember those that were lost and help one another cope with the tragedy.
It's one of the longest-running survivors group of its kind.
MAN: I want to welcome you to this service today in remembering April 4, 1977 when the Southern Airways Flight 242 crashed here in the New Hope community.
MAN: Earl D.
Johnson.
(BELL TOLLS) Lyman Keele Jr.
(BELL TOLLS) William Wade McKenzie.
(BELL TOLLS) Earl C.
Griffin Jr.
(BELL TOLLS) After the crash I had .
.
a hard time understanding how I managed to survive.
And after a couple of months I quit worrying about it.
I felt like I had a second shot at it.
I felt like that .
.
family was more important, uhhaving fun was more important.
(BELLS CHIME 'AMAZING GRACE') It took a pretty deep toll on our family, my mother, my father especially.
They lost two of their children and all their grandchildren all at one time.
WOMAN: And I can still to this day, I can smell the odours and I canhear the sounds and I can see those people.
So many things will bring back those smallest memories and every time it's triggered the emotions come back.
You don't want them to, you don't ask for them, but you can't stop them.
DON FOSTER: I believe it's important for the survivors to get together so that they can share their experiences and know that there are other people that went through the same feelings that they did.
I mean, I've had a great life because of this, in a way.
That makes no sense, but it's changed me for the better.
I think I've done better, had a better life, because of how I grew from that.
MAN: May this service do honour to these dear loved ones and may it bring comfort and peace to we who remain.