Forty years ago this week on a flight from London to Auckland the unthinkable happened.
As a British Airways Boeing 747 cruised at 37,000 feet on the Kuala Lumpur to Perth leg of the journey, on 24 June 1982, one engine failed, then another, then another, and then the fourth.
For 15 minutes the plane descended towards the sea and there was nothing the passengers, trapped in the fuselage, could do as they fell towards their deaths.
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But, they didn’t die. The flight crew never gave up trying and the engines came back to life.
Unbeknown to them they’d flown through an ash cloud from the erupting Mt Galunggung. The ash caused the engines to flame out and damaged the aircraft, while slowly seeping inside.
The passengers, including about 100 New Zealanders, remained calm, as did Captain Eric Moody, first officer Roger Greaves and engineer Barry Townley-Freeman.
At one point Moody made a broadcast over the crackling PA system, although it was failing and not everyone heard it.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Eric Moody.
“We have a small problem. All four engines have failed. We’re doing our utmost to get them going. I trust you’re not in too much distress, and would the senior cabin crew member please come to the flight deck.”
The last clause was the real reason for the message, Moody said, because there was no other way to communicate.
Betty Ferguson was one of the passengers, travelling back to Auckland from London with her mother, Phyl Welch.
“While returning from a holiday trip to Britain the cabin of our Boeing 747 jumbo jet, City of Edinburgh, filled with smoke and the engines were engulfed in flames.
“We totally lost…