Have You Read?

Scapegoat: A Flight Crew’s Journey From Heroes to Villains to Redemption

Scapegoat is a comprehensive story of a Boeing 727, TWA Flight 841 operated by ALPA flightcrew members, that rolled over at 39,000 feet above Michigan and plummeted to within seconds of crashing before the captain and flight crew regained control of the aircraft. As a 35-year active member of the Air Line Pilots Association, I believe this is must reading for all members of the Association because it challenges the work of the Boeing Corporation, the NTSB, and the FAA.

As a disclaimer, I was involved in the investigation of TWA Flight 841 and was interviewed for the book. As the captain representative of TWA Council 25 in Chicago, Ill., I was asked by the ORD chief pilot to accompany him to Detroit to meet with the crew of an incident, not an accident. The flight crew was at a local hotel, and I interviewed them separately in their rooms. I was shocked to hear their tale of aviation terror. I believed their stories then, and I believe them today. A hearing was held at the hotel, and the flightcrew members described the hair-raising descent and their efforts to save the airplane, which they accomplished.

The aircraft was damaged during the descent when the landing gear was extended to aid in the recovery. The flight crew had three unsafe-gear indications. When the flaps were extended for the approach, the aircraft rolled rapidly to the left, so the flaps were retracted but the leading edge slats stayed extended. One of the hydraulic systems was lost. The crew had to deal with multiple normal and abnormal checklists.

The crew landed the aircraft safely, but the ordeal was not over. There was a reported fuel leak, so the captain decided it was safer to deplane using the aft stairs rather than the evacuation slides.

Sounds like great crew resource management and a heroic save. Not so.

When the cockpit voice recorder was removed, it was discovered that part of the 30-minute tape was missing. Boeing stated that what the flightcrew members described happening to the airplane could not have taken place. It must have been crew error, and they tried to hide it by erasing the tape. The NTSB agreed. The book goes on to describe the many twists and turns in the story of the crewmembers’ efforts to clear their names. Scapegoat is an incredible book that you won’t be able to put down.

—Reviewed by Capt. Jerry Lawler (TWA, Ret.)


Hardcover: 459 pages
Publisher: Odyssey Publishing
Available at: Amazon.com

This article was originally published in the September 2016 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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