On a Wing and a Prayer: Interviews with Airline Disaster Survivors

Overview

"I told myself, 'Don't panic! You can get out!' . . . I believed that my positive thinking helped me to survive. I did not panic. I did not want to die, and I intended to do everything necessary to prevent it. I decided that if I was going to die, then it was God's will."

Female, age forty–four, seat 19D

Charlotte, North Carolina, July 2, 1994, USAir flight 1016

From the editor of the cult classic The Black Box, here are fifteen riveting ...

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Overview

"I told myself, 'Don't panic! You can get out!' . . . I believed that my positive thinking helped me to survive. I did not panic. I did not want to die, and I intended to do everything necessary to prevent it. I decided that if I was going to die, then it was God's will."

Female, age forty–four, seat 19D

Charlotte, North Carolina, July 2, 1994, USAir flight 1016

From the editor of the cult classic The Black Box, here are fifteen riveting accounts of air disasters in which passengers tell in their own words how they faced the ultimate test of survival. Drawn from the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) own postincident interviews with disaster survivors, these case studies of what happened during total emergencies will leave readers with an indelible image of personal courage and of the indomitable will to survive. Flight crews, mothers, business travelers, and others reveal in these detailed interviews what they thought, felt, and did –– from their first awareness of danger to preparing for impact, to their struggle to escape and help others to survive. Their incredible recollections of those harrowing moments are interspersed in synchronized time with excerpts from cockpit voice recorders that chronicle the cockpit crews' valiant efforts to bring the aircraft home safely.

What did these survivors do, consciously or not, to increase their survival odds through a nightmare of darkness, fire, smoke, and twisted debris? How did they handle their fear? Gripping as only real–life stories can be, On a Wing and a Prayer lets readers experience the crisis and eventual triumph through the eyes, ears, and emotions of the people who lived to tell the tale.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
According to Malcolm MacPherson, 90 percent of all aircraft accidents worldwide are survivable. On a Wing and a Prayer presents the first-person stories of 14 crash victims who lived to talk about it. A harrowing, inspiring, and potentially lifesaving book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060959784
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/1/1902
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Malcolm MacPherson is a seasoned novelist and journalist who lives with his family in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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First Chapter

1. Charlotte, North Carolina

July 2, 1994
USAir Flight 1016

USAir flight 1016, with fifty-two passengers, two cockpit crew, and three flight attendants, was executing a "missed approach" (when an aircraft has not landed normally and is going around to make another approach to land) while attempting to land on runway 18R at Charlotte, North Carolina's, Douglas International Airport at 6:42 P.M. in "instrument meteorological conditions." It was raining hard. "Convective activity that was conducive to a microburst [win shear]," according to the NTSB'S accident report, punched the Douglas DC-9-31 to the ground. It collided with trees, breaking up, skidding like a toboggan down a residential lane, and smashed into a private residence, catching fire. The captain and one flight attendant suffered minor injuries. The first officer, two flight attendants, and fifteen passengers sustained serious injuries. The remaining thirty-seven passengers died. Impact forces and a post-crash fire destroyed the airplane. No one on the ground was injured.

Cockpit Voice Recorder Key
US1016: Radio transmission from the flight
CAPT: Captain cockpit communication
FO: First officer cockpit communication
APPR: Charlotte Approach Control
TWR: CharlotteTower

Despite a thunderstorm "cell" advancing on the area, the cockpit crew had every reason to believe that a smooth approach and landing were possible.

APPR: Tell you what, USAir 1016, [you] may get some rain just south of the field. Might be a little bit just coming off the north. Just expect the ILS [instrument landing system] now. Amend your altitude ... maintain three thousand.

CAPT: If we have to bail out [go around on the landing] ... [Pause] It looks like we bail out to the right.

FO: Amen.

CAPT:Ten miles to the VOR [navigational aid] which is off the end of the runway. 'Bout a mile off the end of the runway.

FO: Yeah.

CAPT: So I think we'll be all right.

CAPT: Chance of [wind] shear.

Female, Age Twenty-Eight
[With Her Nineteen-Month-Old Daughter], Seat 19F


[During the flight] my daughter moved back and forth between her seat and my lap. She wanted to play with the people in the row behind her. She got tired and laid down next to me. Her head was in my lap. After the flight attendant collected the lemonade cups, I felt a little bump and then a big bump, and the airplane just dropped. I could not understand what happened. The weather had been sunny, and I had seen thick white clouds. I heard an announcement, "I'll have us on the ground in about ten minutes," and, "Flight attendants, please prepare for landing." I recall entering rainy weather, and I leaned forward in my seat to look out the window. The rain was coming on the wing slanted.

Cockpit Voice Recorder


Other traffic in the sky near the airport and on the field's taxiways was aware of the storm, talking about it with the ground controllers and the tower.

TWR: And [USAir] 806, looks like we've gotten a storm right on top of the field here.

US806 [on the ground, waiting to depart from Charlotte]: USAir 806, affirmative. We'll just delay for a while.

TWR [to USAir 1016]: Charlotte Tower, runway 18 Right, cleared to land. Following an FK[okker] 100 on short final. Previous arrival reported a smooth ride all the way down final.

US1016: USAir 1016, I'd appreciate a pirep [pilot flight report] from the guy in front of us.

FO: Yep, [the storm is] laying right there this side of the airport, isn't it?

CAPT: Well.

FO: The edge of the rain is, I'd say ...

CAPT: Yeah.

TWR: USAir 1016, company FK 100 just exited the runway, sir; he said smooth ride.

TWR: USAir 1016, wind is showing 100 at 19.

FO: One hundred at 19, eh?

TWR: USAir 1016, wind now 110 at 21.

CAPT: Stay heads up.

TWR: Wind-shear alert, northeast boundary winds 190 at 13. Carolina 5211, Charlotte Tower, runway 18R, cleared to land, wind 100 at 20. Wind-shear alert, northeast boundary wind 190 at 17. USAir 806, you want to just sit tight for a minute, sir?

US806: Yes, sir, we'd like to just sit tight.

TWR: USAir 797, company aircraft in front of you is going to sit and wait a while, sir. Do you want to go in front of him?

US797: No, no, it wouldn't sound like a good plan. We'll, uh ... It didn't look like a whole lot [of rain] to us on the radar taxiing out, so it shouldn't be, uh, shouldn't be too many minutes.

CAPT [USAir 1016]: Here comes the wipers.

FO: All right.

Start of sounds similar to rain and sounds similar to windshield wipers.

Female, Age Forty-Four, Seat 19D


I felt the engines, brakes or whatever, and then I felt a spinning like turning the engines to go, like [the captain] was circling. I was sitting next to the engine. I heard slowing down of the engine, and then the gunning up on the engine.

On a Wing and a Prayer. Copyright © by Malcolm Macpherson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2006

    Interesting reading scary premise

    This book was very interesting however, it scares the living snot out of me now to board an airplane. I wish that the author would have included stories from the survivors a year or two later or to include who actually died in each accident. It got somewhat confusing at times trying to decipher who lived and who died. My husband also read this book and agreed that this book would make a great documentary on television.

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