"This is the kind of case the Board has never had to deal with - a head-on collision between the credibility of a flight crew versus the airworthiness of the aircraft." - NTSB Investigator-in-Charge Leslie Dean Kampschror.
On April 4, 1979, a Boeing 727 with 82 passengers and a crew of seven rolled over and plummeted from an altitude of 39,000 feet to within seconds of crashing, were it not for the crew's actions to save the plane. The cause of the unexplained dive was the subject of one of the longest NTSB investigations at that time.
While the crew's efforts to save TWA 841 were initially hailed as heroic, that all changed when safety inspectors found 21 minutes of the 30-minute cockpit voice recorder tape blank. The captain of the flight, Harvey "Hoot" Gibson, subsequently came under suspicion for deliberately erasing the tape in an effort to hide incriminating evidence. The voice recorder was never evaluated for any deficiencies.
From that moment on, the investigation was focused on the crew to the exclusion of all other evidence. It was an investigation based on rumors, innuendos, and speculation. Eventually the NTSB, despite sworn testimony to the contrary, blamed the crew for the incident by having improperly manipulated the controls, leading to the dive.
This is the story of an NTSB investigation gone awry, and one pilot's decades-long battle to clear his name.
©2016 Emilio Corsetti III (P)2016 Emilio Corsetti III
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I just flew from Minneapolis to Atlanta to Dublin and hearing an airline story immediately piqued my interest. I think it’s important to NOT Google what happened to fully enjoy the book as the author is considerate enough to give detailed stories within the major body. Like a good action movie, something big happens by the 18-minute mark. At first, the writing is crisp and tight, the author writes enough so the reader can get invested, but not too much time to get lost in minutia. While the setting is an airplane, what the book really provides is a “you decide” book that is detailed enough for someone to take notes is if they so chose. You will hear the story of the incident in carefully outlined detail, then many different points of view, but ultimately that of the defense of the pilot Captain “Hoot” Gibson.
What makes the story compelling is that in 1979, there was no Google or the social media platforms and videos that might have added evidence one way or the other. The book mentions this connection, but think about research through real newspapers, microfilm, and finding people. As a member of Generation X living in the Washington DC suburbs, my first plane tragedy memory came from Air Florida Flight 90, a plane that hit the 14th Street Bridge in bad weather. This flight, however, was not an icy mess from takeoff, rather, an opportunity for a pilot to and crew to be at their finest. As we look to a future with self-driving cars, one wonders if a computer could have done what this pilot did.
Dialogue is an important part of most audiobooks. For this book to succeed, we need different voices. There are some tower-to-airport, airport-to-tower dialogues that give it a cinematic feel, but overall it is a straightforward narrative. How does the book treat its primary and secondary audience? The primary audience, the aviation industry might be very happy with the level of detail and that even those experts may learn something. The secondary audience, the general public will find that there’s explication to help them get through some parts, but like in a jury trial, detailed diagrams, images, and video would make the concepts more concrete. There is a universal component, however, that all readers can tie to, and that is the feeling of being in the minority and the microaggressions that can go along with that.
Where I feel the book succeeds is creating this feeling of emptiness for “Hoot,” the pilot. He feels he excelled under adversity and instead gets ostracized. In the classic “show, don’t tell” fashion we feel for him as stewardesses refuse to fly with him, a training evaluator makes his life more difficult, as do some of the investigators. He loses his circle of friends when things go sour. It’s a story of a hero who becomes an outcast. Much of the book is a defense of Hoot, the pilot, but it makes a tremendous social statement and provides a lesson in empathy. It pits large faceless entitles against a small group, even a single man.
The majority of the book contrasts the strong first few hours. Around two-and-a-half hours, the book goes back to Hoot’s childhood, how he got into flying, and so on. While most audiobook listeners shun an abridged volume, I believe a tighter version, that kept the tension going would have succeeded better than this eleven hour offering. It’s a good detailed and well researched book, but we go from sympathetic and engaged juror, to someone who is watching the clock with inordinate amounts of time used to prove and defend the pilot. For example, the author dedicates almost half-an-hour to the timing of picking up meal trays. While this time stamp is important for a jury trial and to set the record straight, the story loses its steam proving and beating a dead horse with detail than focusing on the central theme, an innocent crew ends up being the victim of groupthink and bias stemming from perceived guilt, largely a function of an erased flight tape.
Is it worth a read? Yes, I think so, but in the end I would retract my statement to not Google, rather, I would Google the images that could help me understand flaps, aircraft schematics and maneuvers.
The narrator, Fred Filbrich, provides a well-read account. I didn’t notice the narrator as his voice was a warm background until the book switched from primary narrator to tower to flight and flight to tower dialogue. It’s an easy listen and I found myself moving through hours of the book without noticing time going by. Except for conversations between the cockpit and the tower, the book mostly lacks dialogue that would have made the narrator’s job a bit easier. Overall, however, the narrator made a highly technical volume pleasurable.
Audiobook was provided for review by the author.
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An amazing true story, where the preconceived outcome was pushed over the actual provable facts, so typical of government bureaucrats. Damn the consequences to these men's lives, careers and reputations, because at no time was Boeing and their stooges in the government ever going to let them take any of the heat for this. Having spent years in Aviation myself, The narrative of pilot error over mechanical failure seems to be the first thing pushed, as it was in this case. Amazing detail really sell this books point. The narration by Fred Filbrich is very technical and understandable, if not particularly dynamic. Still very listenable, just don't go in expecting Luke Daniels or Michael Kramer.
I was given a copy of this book free of charge by the Author in exchange for an honest review through Audiobook Boom.
A good listen makes for an amazing day!
Just seeing how much of a burden the flight crew had to endure. It really made me feel for their situation.
He did a good job in telling this story. He brought the characters together and made it an interesting listen.
Sadness mixed with strong empathy.
"I was provided this audiobook at no charge by the narrator in exchange for an unbiased review via Audiobook Boom."
"The Control of Nature" by John McPhee describes several attempts to control nature. The efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers to channel the Mississippi with levees and such is shown as an example of single-mindedness in how they have not been able to fully succeed. In "Scapegoat", we see another government entity, the NTSB, latch onto a theory for the cause of a near-fatal aviation incident and end up doing metaphorical back flips attempting to justify the theory rather than examine all evidence with an open mind. While the flood-control projects would be impossible to abandon now, the insistence on a finding of crew error in the near crash was correctable and in itself left the true cause unaddressed and still presenting danger to future flights.
Even though the plane came within seconds of crashing, economic forces rushed it through repairs and back into service, thereby losing the opportunity for a complete failure analysis. This misstep was compounded by the early assumption that the crew had done something to precipitate the incident and the dogged refusal of the investigating team to question that assumption. The title of the book, Scapegoat, and its relation of the toll those accusations had on the pilot may seem the main theme, but I found the subtext more important: money (get that plane back in the air) and politics (positioning by the investigators) trumped the need for finding the truth.
I have a professional background in military aviation. From the onset of the safe emergency landing and aircraft evacuation on, I could not believe the plethora of errors and borderline lack of professionalism in the aftermath and investigation of this accident/incident. I can only hope and pray that lessons learned from this have been incorporated into the processes of future investigations. But then, I have my doubts.
It would seem that once the NTSB lead investigator had his 'evidence' to convict the crew, his attitude became "don't confuse me with facts!"
Although reasonably explained, the material is extremely detailed in a number of places. basic understanding of aviation and flying would be most helpful.
Narrator did an excellent job. 'Replay' of flight crew/Air Traffic Control radio dialogue from incident excellently engineered to sound almost like a recording of the conversation.
The beginning was good but near the middle it was just too many facts.
He has a good knowledge of the direction of the story so his emphasis on words was very good.
I hate when the media just make things up if they can't bet the facts.
"I was provided this audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator in exchange for an unbiased review via Audiobook Boom."
Tell us about yourself! : I am an author who loves to read, more like loves to listen, since I spend so much time writing.
I didn't know what to expect when I started listening to this book. I assumed it was a fiction story, but soon realized it was an actual event. The author did a wonderful, thorough job in his research for this book. He also told the story with what appeared to me to be unbiased facts, leaving the reader with the ability to decipher his/her opinion.
I don't think I can pick a favorite character in this type of story. I found great empathy for the crew of flight 841 and all they had to endure following the accident. It was amazing to see how people can go from being thankful one minute to accusatory the next.
Fred Filbrich has an amazing voice. It's clear and strong, and I can't even recall a single error. He also give the characters life, no dull read here.
I think the author has already done that with his subtitle.
Don't hesitate to get this book and listen to it. It's accurate, entertaining, and engrossing. I was disappointed when I had to stop listening and couldn't wait to start listening again.
A reader of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and non-fiction Christian books. A reviewer for Audiobookboom.com
Wow, what a shocking and very enjoyable story the author of this book provides to those interested in well researched and well written documentaries. While I was reading the book, I felt like I was watching a show play out on the Discovery or History channels. The writing was just right for me. If you want a compelling story that provide you with a battle between big corporations and the little guy, this is the book for you. In so many ways, I felt like I was reading a piece of fiction, and what is even more unbelievable is that this is a true story. I highly recommend this to any interested in such subjects.
I am a pilot and really wanted to read this book based on the author’s description, yet I believe that even people without any knowledge of aircraft would find this story enjoyable. It really is a story of one man’s journey and all that happened to turn this life upside down. The author provides additional details via his website that helps to fill in some gaps for those who are not knowledgeable in the subject or would like to understand or clarify parts of the story.
The author did a very good job is describing the various situations and setting the scenes so the reader is almost able to visualize the actions the plane took along with the actions of the crew, etc. Even in the parts of the book that would seem to be less action based, the author does a great job of keeping you involved by describing the surroundings in detail. I thought the author did a good job of including details on the various characters involved and even down to their physical appearances and reactions to the various situations. I enjoyed the extra non-airplane related details such as with Hoot’s marriages, health related issues, places he lived, and even some of his hobbies. What an amazing man for all he accomplished.
Without being overly technical, but technical enough for people who understand aircraft and the physics of flight, the author is able to give the reader a sense of the forces and other events that took place at the time of the incident. For me, I would have liked to have had more third-party validation of the data and events as this gives credibility to the story, however even without them you quickly know the author has done his research and documents his conclusions well. I also liked that he included transcripts in a few areas which you know come from the official documents released by the NTSB and FAA.
The story overall was very nostalgic for me as I remember the days when smoking on flights was allowed in the “smoking section”; near the back of the plane. I remember the time before social media and cell phones. How different this story may have been, either for the better or worse, if these newer means of communication were available during this event. For some reason this one piece of data stuck with me, when the author mentions that most people from the flight were given only $7.50 reimbursement after the incident for a meal, but this was refused because there was not an agreement between the airline and the establishment.
I like how Fred Filbrich narrated the book and his smooth yet engaging voice kept me listening for hours on end. He was able to provide good inflection throughout the various parts of the book and unlike with a fiction book, he did not need to act out the different characters. I would be willing to future material from this narrator.
I will say that the book does have a few audio issues that I would have liked to have been corrected prior to the title being published. I will say that these were not bad enough to impact the overall story, but I did want to say that I had hoped for some editing first. Throughout the book the narrator swallows, which I understand is necessary, but other books I have listened to either filter this out or have it removed. At the end of the chapters there are often clicks, bumps, etc. which are not cleaned up. Do not let these items listed prevent you from listening to the story, even without perfect audio the story is still great.
This book was provided to the reviewer by the author, narrator, or publisher in exchange for posting a non-bias review
“This audiobook was given by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review via Audiobook Boom.”
I sort of remember this happening, on my husband's birthday. It is a shame that the manufacturer, NTSB, and the air line tried to shift blame on the crew. When you have a complicated machine, things can go wrong. I found this quite informative, even without going to suggested website for illustrations.
The narration was well done.The characters were well portrayed.
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