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Thread: 30 years ago this week, the crash of flight 603

  1. #1
    Pacific Historian syscom3's Avatar
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    30 years ago this week, the crash of flight 603

    I saw this in todays OC register. Click the link for the web page and the pics.
    Life: Still surviving the crash of Flight 603 | plane crash, LAX crash, tom kaiser, jim mcjannet - OCRegister.com

    Still surviving Flight 603 crash
    30 years ago, Tom Kaiser was first to reach downed DC-10. Could he save 200 on board?
    By TOM BERG
    THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

    The sound jolted Tom Kaiser from his Bible study.

    Boom, boom, like that; like someone firing a cannon.

    It was always loud here in Fire Station 80 North – a concrete outpost next to the north runway of Los Angeles International Airport. But this was different.

    Firefighters Kaiser and Jim McJannet had pulled airport duty on this drizzly morning of March 1, 1978 - 30 years ago this week. They'd relieved the last crew at 7:15 a.m. and were waiting for a mechanic to arrive with a new master brake cylinder for their truck.

    LAX was the third busiest airport in the world, but on an average day, you still might see a jackrabbit (a deaf jackrabbit, the men joked). Or stand by for a fuel spill. Or simply listen to the roar of jets all day.

    McJannet had been reading the paper when he heard the unmistakable sound: "Blowout," he said. "Let's go."

    The men raced outside to see a departing Continental DC-10 barreling down Runway 6R at more than 150 mph.

    "The tires had blown off and it was just metal on the left side of the aircraft," Kaiser recalled this week, thumbing through an album of newspaper clippings and photos. "The magnesium wheels caused lots of sparks and fire."

    When the jet ground to a halt, 664 feet past the runway, a plume of fire shot 100 feet into the air. Jet fuel gushed from the left wing, which had started to separate. Black smoke enveloped the plane.

    "My God," thought Kaiser. "How many passengers are going to get out?"

    There was no time to pull on boots or flame-retardant suits. Every second mattered.

    He and McJannet had about 300 seconds to rescue 200 people trapped inside – sitting on 21,000 gallons of fuel and surrounded by fire.

    The clock was ticking.

    GOING TO EXPLODE

    This was her very first airplane ride.

    Gina Draker, 13, took the window seat just behind the left wing. Her mom and dad dropped into seats beside her. Gina had been excited – they were flying to Honolulu for her sister's wedding – until boarding. Then she got nervous.

    It helped when the family held hands to pray for a safe trip. But they hadn't even let go when orange flames flashed by her window.

    It looked like a fireball, she recalls – "bouncing and spinning past in this bright blaze."

    Flight 603 had just blown three of the four tires on its left landing gear.

    In the cockpit, Capt. Eugene Hersche, piloting his last flight before retirement, screamed, "Abort!" He locked the brakes and reversed engine thrust. The 215-ton jet lurched and rumbled, as if bouncing over cobblestones.

    Wheel pieces went flying. The left landing gear collapsed. The left wing flopped to the ground and its fuel tank ruptured as the plane scraped to a fiery stop.

    Inside was sheer panic. Screaming. Pandemonium. The crowd pinned one steward so tightly against an exit door, he couldn't open it. They pinned Gina's mom, Genie, against a seat where she had fallen, one shoe on, one shoe off.

    "I kept telling my mom to get up and come with me," recalls Gina, now 43 and a sculptor. "She told me to just, 'Go! Go on!' It was horrible."

    Meanwhile, black smoke started curling through left-side exit doors, and flames were licking in.

    Bill Draker, who'd served in the Marines, lifted his wife and daughter onto seats and told them to crawl to the nearest exit.

    When they finally made it, his wife Genie recalls, "I went down that chute, but I just couldn't think of anything beyond, 'That plane is going to explode.'"

    If it did, it would take the life of her husband – who stayed behind to help.

    JUMPING OUT DOORS



    It took Kaiser and McJannet 90 seconds to arrive.

    They dodged debris all the way – an engine part here, a wing flap there, metal scraps and tire shreds.

    "We came right up here," Kaiser says, pointing to the left side of a charred fuselage in an old photo. "It was smoking like crazy. You'd see flashes and hear fuel cells exploding."

    The heat was intense, even in their cab. A steady stream of jet fuel fed the fire. Every exit chute on this side burned on opening. If people on Flight 603 were going to escape, they'd have to climb out the other side. Kaiser wheeled his rig around.

    His nearest help was still a half mile from the airport – three trucks led by Capt. Bob Engel, a veteran firefighter of 32 years.

    Engel saw the loom-up – fire and smoke shooting 200 feet into the air and knew, "This is it!" This was the big one.

    "I was afraid we could have 100 or 150 fatalities," recalls Engel, now 85 of Westchester, who was in charge that morning.

    He called for backup: more fire companies, trucks, men, ambulances, everything you got.

    "When I rolled in," he says, "people were jumping out the tail door. The chute had been destroyed. People were burning, their clothes were on fire."

    One couple had burned to death, and jet fuel was now pooling ankle-deep in places. If Gina's dad was to get out, he'd need two men – Kaiser and McJannet – to keep the right-side exits free from fire a few seconds more.

    YOU FIRST

    The fire was spreading under the whole fuselage.

    McJannet kept spraying foam on the hot spots, but there were too many.

    "You could see several people on fire," says Kaiser. "They got splattered with fuel when they jumped out. The foam can only hold so much."

    People were running. Some sat near flare-ups, dazed and injured. Others crawled along the right wing, dropping from its rear flap. An older woman wandered under the plane and caught fire.

    "I remember her cries of help – 'Help me!'" recalls young passenger Gina Draker. "That vision and those sounds still haunt me."

    McJannet finally got the top and belly of the plane covered in foam. The fire held. And one by one, the passengers emerged: sliding, leaping, eventually climbing down a ladder at the rear door.

    Among the last out was Bill Draker, who'd helped several older passengers escape. By now, his exit chute near the front had burned and tattered.

    "Go," Draker said to another man, also helping.

    "You first," the man replied.

    With that, they jumped and landed in a heap.

    In all, two died at the scene, two died later, and 29 were seriously hurt. The other 167 survived with minor or no injuries, thanks in part to a new technique – the use of foam, also called "light water," which passed it first major test at LAX that day.

    And thanks to the quick action of Kaiser and McJannet.

    "They knocked down the fire for people coming out," says Engel. "They probably saved 40 or 50 lives."

    UNFORGETTABLE

    It's been 30 years, but the memories are fresh, triggered by an old front-page photo.

    For those on board Flight 603, it's a reminder of death and how close they came.

    "It's still quite emotional," says passenger Gina Draker. "I hate that picture. It brings me back. It makes me remember."

    For those called to help, it's a reminder of life and how many they helped save.

    "It means a lot to me," says Kaiser. "I just happened to be at the station that morning. But I'll never forget it. It's vivid in my mind. Something like this only happens once in a lifetime."

    That's the difference about 300 seconds can make.
    "Pilot to copilot..... what are those mountain goats doing up here in the clouds?"

  2. #2
    Senior Member fly boy's Avatar
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    so syscom when did flight 603 happen and how did it crash

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    Senior Member wilbur1's Avatar
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    flyboy open your eyes and read the top of the post! Syscom great story, i remember hearing about that day my hat is off to those gentlemen

    Dont shoot him...... It will just make him angry.

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    "Shooter" evangilder's Avatar
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    READ the article and those questions will be answered...


    > I Support Doug Gilliss <

    For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return. Leonardo Da Vinci

  5. #5
    Pacific Historian syscom3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fly boy View Post
    so syscom when did flight 603 happen and how did it crash
    How old are you? What are your grades in school?
    "Pilot to copilot..... what are those mountain goats doing up here in the clouds?"

  6. #6
    IP/Mech THE GREAT GAZOO FLYBOYJ's Avatar
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    I WAS THERE! This is what I remember...

    My A&P School was located on 96th and Sepulveda Blvd. We were sitting in a classroom then heard a bunch a sirens. Some one shouted that "A plane had just crashed." Several of us ran out to the corner of 96th and Sepulveda and saw a DC-10 sitting to what appeared on the runway over run. It seemed to be sitting 'cocked' as if it had a flat tire. I ran across the street with several other people to get a better look and it looked liked the airplane was smoldering. There used to be a rental car parking lot at the end of the runway and the airport was only separated by a normal chain link fence about 6 feet high (pre-911 days). As I got up to the fence all the slides blew out and people starting evacuating. About the same time the center fuselage burst into flames. We all started running in the opposite direction as we thought the whole plane was going to explode. We made it back to the east corner of 96th and Sepulveda and just watched the rest of the action. Someone said that one of the flight crew got the right side cockpit window opened and jumped out to the pavement, breaking his legs.

    The wreck sat there for a week or so. During that time all of SoCal was experiencing heavy rains so it was a dreary site for a while. About a week later I was hired by Aviation Warehouse, an aircraft salvage company and one of my first job assignments was cutting up the wreck at their yard which at that time was located about 10 miles east of LAX. There were parts returned to Continental. The fuselage was cut up into half sections and the top cab was sold as a shelter. If you travel around El Mirage California you could see one or two of the cabs being used by farmers to park field equipment in a shaded area.

    A sick humor note: The aircraft was on its way to Hawaii. On the corner of 96th and Sepulveda there was a billboard advertising Continental Airlines flying to Hawaii. There was a big DC-10 on the billboard. One night a few of my "classmates" scaled the billboard sign and painted flames in the center of the billboard’s DC-10 fuselage. The news media got a hold of it; the billboard came down within a day!!!
    Last edited by FLYBOYJ; 03-20-2008 at 03:56 PM.

  7. #7
    Pacific Historian syscom3's Avatar
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    A sick humor note: The aircraft was on its way to Hawaii. On the corner of 96th and Sepulveda there was a billboard advertising Continental Airlines flying to Hawaii. There was a big DC-10 on the billboard. One night a few of my "classmates" scaled the billboard sign and painted flames in the center of the billboard’s DC-10 fuselage. The news media got a hold of it; the billboard came down within a day!!!

    "Pilot to copilot..... what are those mountain goats doing up here in the clouds?"

  8. #8
    Junior Member lisamariegimbel777's Avatar
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    Loss Of Memory & Family Secrets Flight 603 Crash Escape Perhaps?

    Hello,

    My name Is Lisa Marie Gimbel. I'm In search of a flight that almost crashed when I was a child, In the San Bernardino area. It happened In the 1970's I've asked my family, however I can't seem to get any answers. The family has however, confirmed that, the dramatic flight did happen. I would appreciate any assistance In locating the passenger's names on flight 603. Thank you, In advance.

    Respectfully,

    Lisa Marie Gimbel
    PM Me for info
    Last edited by FLYBOYJ; 01-28-2009 at 09:25 PM.

  9. #9
    IP/Mech THE GREAT GAZOO FLYBOYJ's Avatar
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    Flight 603 happened at LAX and unless you have specific information I doubt you're going to get info on a flight that "almost" crashed."

  10. #10
    Glock Perfection Matt308's Avatar
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    ...and Lisa I would caution you about submitting your name, phone number and date of birth on the internet. You are asking for trouble related to identity theft or just some jokers making your life hell.

    I hope you find your answers, hon. If you have more specifics on the incident that might help us.

    Mods can you remove her phone DoB for her sake?

    "Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if
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