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35 Miles from Shore: The Ditching and Rescue of ALM Flight 980 Paperback – April 28, 2008
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"Frightening Flight. On May 2, 1970, ALM Flight 980 from New York to St. Maarten was forced to land in the rain-swollen Caribbean, where it floated for ten minutes before sinking in deep waters. How the fifty-seven passengers survived for an hour and a half in the shark-infested waters until the Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy arrived to the rescue, is harrowingly told here." Karl Helicher Foreward magazine
"...Corsetti weaves a story of an airplane type pushed to the edge of its performance limits on a non-stop route between New York and St. Maarten; confusion in emergency protocols, a non-functioning PA system, and a possibly faulty fuel totalizer, all of which combined in a "perfect storm" in the days before safety management system (SMS) culture made risk analysis an industry touchstone." Curt Epstein Aviation Int'l News
From the Author
As the search for answers to the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 mystery continues, questions will arise as to the condition of the plane before it entered the water as well as the fate of the passengers. The story told in 35 Miles From Shore recounts what happened in the only open-water ditching of a commercial jet. If there were survivors on MH370, this true account will give readers some idea of what it may have been like for those who managed to get out of the plane before it sank.
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Another reviewer here points out quite nicely the lack of CRM and it's contribution to this disaster. Simply put, CRM, Cockpit Resource Management or "good people skills" was never emphasized in the airline industry till the 1980's. This as a result of the industry finally coming to terms with the fact that an autocratic "skygod" dramatically reduces the efficiency of the crew and substantially reduces the safety margin of any airline flight. The United DC8 at Portland in 1978 is another good example. That plane crashed for really only one reason, the Captains poor CRM skills. However it occurred to me that in the 1970's there was no CRM training for pilots and autocratic pilots were tolerated. You could say they didn't know any better. So my initial reaction that the lack of CRM skills not being emphasized enough by the author is actually an accurate refection of the times.
The book opens by explaining that most accidents aren't a freak occurrence but rather the end of an unfortunate chain of events. In the case of ALM Flight 980, this is especially true. The author covers the choices made by the airlines, the crew, and the air traffic controllers on the ground that added to the inevitable end result. From the secondary fuel tank that was never added to the plane to the last second decision to head for their alternate landing destination due to bad weather, the author painstakingly researched every available detail about the flight and the events leading to the disaster.
In the process of revealing all the events that may or may not have contributed to the crash, we learn about all the people involved. We learn about the passengers, the crew, and even the rescuers. Reading about why each passenger was on the flight (last vacation before having a baby, returning home, business, etc.) really brought the story to life. Knowing that the author interviewed most of these people directly reminds the reader that this tragic story really happened.
One note about the endnotes in the Kindle version of the book - they work wonderfully. Typically when you read a book with annotations, they are either at the bottom of the page or at the end of the book. I typically dislike reading books where the notes are at the end because that means I have to stop reading and find the right annotation at the back of the book. However, in 35 Miles From Shore, all you have to do is use the scroll wheel to click on the line with the number and then choose the number from the menu. It takes you directly to the appropriate annotation, and simply hitting the back button brings you back to your place in the book. The only problem I found with this - and it's a small one - is that the asterisk-marked pieces often land in the middle of paragraphs. However, once you've realized this, it's easier to read around them.
I truly enjoyed the book. It was a fast read, unbelievably well-researched, and extremely interesting. Even if you're not much of a non-fiction reader, this is an entertaining book that can capture your attention just as easily as a novel.
Most recent customer reviews
: Emilio Corsetti III
A detailed tale of the ditching and rescue of a commercial airliner in the...Read more